Death in Mississippi Linked to West Nile
JACKSON, Miss. – State health officials say a Mississippi resident has likely died from the West Nile virus, the first death in the state linked to the mosquito-borne illness.
"Lab results just obtained are such that the person meets the surveillance case definition for West Nile virus," said Dr. Ed Thompson, the state health officer.
State health officials would not disclose the age or gender of the victim.
The Mississippi case brings to six the number of West Nile-related deaths in the nation. The other five were in Louisiana.
The Mississippi death is still under investigation. Thompson said it was possible the death of the Hinds County resident might not be due to West Nile virus, but more than likely it was.
Thompson said Mississippi has six new cases of West Nile virus, bringing the state's total to 34. Eighteen of those cases are confirmed and 16 are probable.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported 112 human cases of West Nile this year, more than half in the past week.
Most of the human cases were in Louisiana, which has reported 71 infections and five deaths in the nation's biggest outbreak since the disease was first detected in New York in 1999.
Mississippi had reported more than 30 human cases of the disease in time for the report. The CDC also reported human cases in Texas and Illinois. Cases were also announced this week in Washington, D.C., and Alabama, but came too late to be included in the CDC report.
In addition, Illinois reported its second human case Thursday, a 57-year-old man who became critically ill with encephalitis.
Kansas officials said Thursday the virus has spread to their state, where it was found in a dead horse. In Missouri, 13 horses that died from encephalitis -- a swelling of the brain -- have also tested positive for West Nile at the University of Missouri's Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Columbia.
On Thursday, the CDC announced an additional $10 million will be sent to states to fight infected mosquitoes. The agency already handed out $17 million a year, but as more states requested help, the fund didn't cover requests. About $3.7 million will be earmarked for the hardest-hit states, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Thompson first disclosed the Mississippi death Thursday during a national teleconference discussion about West Nile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Of the 34 cases recorded in Mississippi to date, those infected range in age from 3 to 82. The majority of cases have occurred in people over the age of 50, Thompson said.
NancyKay Sullivan Wessman, the Department of Health's spokeswoman, said the public needs to be aware of protection measures against West Nile.
Officials recommend bug spray and long clothes at dusk to protect against mosquitoes.
Meanwhile, the federal government is giving Mississippi $300,000 to fight West Nile, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Thursday in Wisconsin.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's spokeswoman Lee Ann Mayo said the governor is also attempting to obtain additional funds, including money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Ed Thompson said Mississippi had applied for the U.S. Health and Human Services funds to increase laboratory capacity and to do additional surveillance to fight the illness.
"I'm pleased to hear that we've gotten those funds," he said.
Thompson said the number of West Nile cases in Mississippi is likely to rise.
"Our estimation is that we're likely to have considerably more cases before this is over, but we don't have any way of knowing how many," he said. "Our season lasts well into September or even into October, depending on the weather."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.