The Mississippi State Department of Health reported the state's first human case of West Nile Virus for 2013 on Monday. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed incidents to the public.
The case is out of Madison County.
In 2012, Mississippi had 247 WNV cases and five deaths, compared to just to 52 cases and five deaths in 2011.
"This is actually not the first time we have had cases reported this early in Mississippi," said MSDH Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers in a press release. "We have had cases in March before and as early as January in previous years.
"This serves as a reminder that WNV can occur year-round, even if we are not in the peak summer months of July, August, and September."
Cleveland mosquito abatement manager Bill Alexander of Advanced Mosquito Control, Inc. is confident in their strategies to improve this season's prevention methods.
"We are planning on putting larvicide in with the fertilizer rice farmers use in their fields," said Alexander in a January board meeting. "Experts say larvicides are the best way to control mosquito populations because it all begins in standing water."
This is the first year the program will mix larvicide with fertilizer.
The city contracted with AMC in May of 2012 and Alexander said having an earlier start in 2013 would also help the cause.
Mosquito control plans to install more population count traps throughout Cleveland to document the efficiency of the program.
"We have some traps outside of the city and we are finding some places that don't get sprayed, like Skene, are getting two to three times as many mosquitos," said Alexander.
Another addition to the program this year is Dr. Barry Campbell, a mosquito specialist and biology and physical science professor at Delta State University.
"We've made what I think is a major acquisition for our program by having Dr. Campbell work with us this year," said Alexander. "He knows more about mosquitoes than anyone I've ever known."
Campbell will provide advice on different mosquito species and their typical breeding patterns, and he will also utilize Delta State students to help track population counts.
Alexander added that cleanliness of homeowners' yards plays a major role in the local population and decreasing the number of WNV cases.
"We encourage people to be more diligent about cleaning up around their houses," said Alexander. "We will spray as necessary but we need people to focus on upkeep of their yards."
Old tires, kiddie pools, standing areas of water, plant pots, leaf piles and even tall grass lead to problem areas throughout the city.
"It's said that each tire lying around in someone's yard can be a breeding spot for one million mosquitoes in a season," said Alexander.
Local businesses are asked to remain conscious of tires and other avoidable breeding environments.
The MSDH recommends some of the same precautions as Alexander.
The department also encourages citizens to wear protective clothing (such as long-sleeved shirts and pants) during peak times from dusk until dawn, and to use a recommended mosquito repellent according to manufacturer's directions.
Symptoms of WNV infection are often mild and may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes.
In a small number of cases, infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death.
For more information on WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses, a checklist to reduce the mosquito population in and around homes, and recommended mosquito repellents, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/westnile or call the WNV toll-free hotline from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-877-WST-NILE (1-877-978-6453).