The Mid-South on alert, watching for West Nile Virus - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Stephanie Rodrigues

The Mid-South on alert, watching for West Nile Virus

Tonight, four people in Louisiana have died after contracting the virus, another 58 have been infected. In Mississippi, at least 22 people have been diagnosed with the virus, though none are thought to be carrying a fatal strain of West Nile. There's one suspected case of human infection in Arkansas. And though, no human infections have been reported in Tennessee, doctors say you could have the virus and not even know it!

Central Gardens, in the 38104 zip code has tested positive for the West Nile Virus. News this and other areas may be a health risk because of mosquitoes, has many people calling doctors for advice. Dr. Barry Willbrandt has seen a growing number of his patients concerned about the West Nile Virus. In fact, calls into this Midtown clinic are soaring.

Many people are worried they have the virus and Dr. Willbrandt says some of them probably do. Doctors say the vast majority of people infected by mosquitoes won't get sick. And once the virus runs its course, your body becomes immune. Good news, since right now there is no cure. Less than one percent of infected people will actually develop the rare fatal form, mostly children and elderly, their bodies have a hard time defending against the virus.

As the West Nile epidemic grows throughout the country, doctors stress the virus can NOT be transmitted by human contact, only mosquitoes. The best advise they offer is not to panic and avoid being bit. There have been NO human cases of West Nile in Tennessee, although doctors say the only way to really know is through a spinal tap test on patients. Local hospital officials say they have not performed any of those tests.

Again, NO HUMAN cases have been reported in Shelby County, but 82 BIRD infections have been confirmed. If you find a dead blue jay or crow CALL THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT at 544-7503! Someone will come out and pick up the birds through Wednesday.

So far, Louisiana has taken the hardest hit from the West Nile Virus, tonight operating in a declared state of emergency. The main weapon to "fight the bite" of mosquitos, spray trucks, working the streets at both dawn and dusk. In addition to four deaths and 58 infections in Louisiana, other states including Mississippi and Texas also have confirmed cases. Julie Gerberding, CDC Director said, "The good news is that we know where it is going next by monitoring the infections in the birds, so we can pretty much predict where we need to upgrade our mosquito control system."

Tonight, the Southwest is bracing for the arrival of the virus by this fall. Health officials predict this may be the beginning of a long difficult battle against the dangerous invader. There are ways to "fight the bite" of mosquitos, especially around your home. To help prevent mosquitoes from breeding, eliminate places where rainwater can collect such as old tires. Clean clogged gutters and drain flowerpots, wading pools and toys that can collect water. Also try to fill birdbaths and fountains with fresh water every week or so.

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