JACKSON, Miss. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that a Mississippi resident who died last week tested positive for West Nile virus -- making him the eighth death this year and the first death from the mosquito-borne illness outside of Louisiana.
The CDC also confirmed Monday the first human case in Indiana and one new case in Alabama and in Texas as well, and Florida health officials on Tuesday confirmed the first case of West Nile in the state, although they said the patient probably got the disease in Louisiana.
The CDC has confirmed 145 human cases in Alabama, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas -- the Florida case would raise the overall toll to 146 cases in the U.S.
Mississippi emergency and public health officials on Monday announced a "Fight the Bite" campaign to make people aware of how to avoid West Nile virus.
Some 1.5 million fliers are being printed for placement on home doorknobs around the state that list a number of safety tips -- avoid mosquitos when possible, use mosquito repellent with the chemical DEET, wear long-sleeved clothing outdoors, eliminate pools of standing water.
"If you live in Mississippi, you're at risk," state Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson said Monday at the Capitol. The virus has infected 41 in Mississippi and Thompson said the number will grow as health officials complete lab tests for other patients.
The confirmed death in Mississippi comes one day after the CDC's director said West Nile virus is an "emerging, infectious disease epidemic" that could be spread all the way to the Pacific Coast by birds and mosquitoes.
The Northeast and the South have been hardest hit by the virus since it was first identified in the United States in 1999, but Dr. Julie Gerberding said birds and mosquitoes infected with West Nile are now in most states east of the Mississippi River and some to the west of it.
West Nile is "a problem that is having an unusually high human toll this year. So it is serious, and we have to continue our public health action to combat it," Gerberding said on CBS' Face the Nation.
In Louisiana, state and local workers are spraying insecticide in residential areas where the Asian tiger mosquito and the Southern house mosquito typically lay eggs, under the assumption that the two species are the most likely carriers of West Nile.
"We have made an assumption about which species are involved in transmission of the disease here based on what has happened in other parts of the United States," said Dawn Wesson, a medical entomologist at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Gerberding said Louisiana's experience last year with the deaths of four people from St. Louis encephalitis, a mosquito-bourne virus similar to West Nile, has helped officials deal with this year's outbreak.
"I think the investments that we've made over the past several years in this kind of public health response have really paid off," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.