The number of West Nile cases reported in Mississippi this year doubled in the past week, according to figures from the state Department of Health.
The agency reported 17 new human cases of West Nile virus on Monday – five of those in the metro area.
The state now has seen 34 West Nile cases spanning 18 counties since March. Last week, the state’s first West Nile-related death of the year was reported.
At this time last year, the Health Department had reported 14 cases in 10 counties.
Mississippi consistently has one of the highest rates of West Nile virus in the United States, along with Louisiana, South Dakota and Colorado, State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson said, but studies have not determined why rates are higher in those states.
Mississippi experienced a record West Nile season in 2006, with 184 cases and 14 deaths. The number of cases dropped to 136 last year, and there were four deaths.
About 37 percent of Mississippi’s West Nile cases last year were in the metro area.
State health officials also reported one additional case of LaCrosse encephalitis in Amite County, bringing the state’s total of LAC cases to four. Additional cases have been reported in Adams, Hinds and Yazoo counties.
LaCrosse encephalitis is another mosquito-borne virus that, while usually mild, can affect the central nervous system, causing seizures and coma. It is mostly found in the Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic regions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention