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Mosquitoes in Mississippi: Protect Yourself From West Nile Virus

JACKSON, MISS— Spring time has people getting outdoors and dealing with mosquito bites; those little itchy, red bumps can lead to more than just a simple annoyance. 

West Nile Virus is carried by mosquitoes in Mississippi. For some, there are no symptoms at all, for others, it is life-altering.

“Some eighty-percent of people being bitten by mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus are asymptomatic, they don’t get sick,” says Sharon Sims with Methodist Rehab, “about twenty-percent get sick, get flu-like symptoms, but they don’t go to the doctor because the symptoms aren’t that bad.”

But about one percent of those bitten by infected mosquitoes do get sick. And that sickness is enough to change the rest of their life.

“At first I thought it was the flu,” says William Terry, “my wife carried me to the emergency room and they sent me home after a drip, saying it was a stomach bug.”

Just two days later, Terry was being admitted into ICU, where he slipped into a coma for three weeks. That was in 2002.

Now, Terry still feels the pain of West Nile Virus.

“I still get headaches, weakness in my legs and ankles,” says Terry, “I have to wear braces on both my legs when I go outside and am on unlevel ground.”

Sims says there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself from West Nile Virus.

“Dump all the containers in your yard that are carrying standing water,” says Sims, “and wear DEET. When you buy DEET, go for the highest amount you can find on the label.”

Getting rid of the standing water can eliminate the homes for the mosquitoes, and DEET is a repellent that you can wear. The city where you live may have a mosquito spray service as well.

Sims points out that many die every year from West Nile virus, so taking a few precautionary steps could be life-saving.

Tomorrow continues the News Mississippi series “Mosquitoes in Mississippi.” News Mississippi is speaking with an allergist to find out what you can do to treat mosquito bites and how to respond to an allergic reaction to mosquitoes.

For information on mosquito-proofing your yard, see part one of the “Mosquitoes in Mississippi” series here.

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