August 23, 2012
Mississippi West Nile virus epidemic outlook 'grim'
By Ruth Ingram
Read this story in The Clarion-Ledger.
West Nile virus is epidemic in Mississippi, and the worst it's been since the virus appeared in the state in 2002, a senior scientist and researcher warns.
"Unfortunately, I believe it will get worse," said Methodist Rehabilitation Center physician Dr. Art Leis, a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
"We still have two months of what I predict to be heavy West Nile virus cases. It's the first time since 2002, that Methodist has had six patients with the infection - and we're expecting more."
The picture is similarly grim around the nation; last week, the city of Dallas declared an emergency because of its outbreak.
Health officials at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say three times the usual number of cases have been reported for this time of the year. On average, officials say, it's about 300 cases by this time in August.
Nationwide, the count is more than 1,100 confirmed cases, with about half of those in Texas, and so far, 41 deaths, CDC officials say.
In Mississippi, state Department of Health officials report 85 confirmed cases and one death. It takes weeks for testing to confirm a West Nile case, so many other cases can exist that haven't been reported or tested.
Leis and others in the medical community worry that a complacent public is not taking action to lessen or eliminate their chances of contracting West Nile.
"I don't think the general public, and probably most of the physicians in the Southeastern United States, understand how serious this is," said retired Natchez surgeon Dr. Van Craig, a patient at Methodist Rehabilitation Center himself recovering from West Nile.