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West Nile Virus Spreading in Shelby County

The Shelby County Health Department urges residents not to panic but to take precautions when it comes to the West Nile virus.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Shelby County Health Department urges residents not to panic but to take precautions when it comes to the West Nile virus.

So far, the virus killed four people in Mississippi and Arkansas. In Shelby County more than 60 percent of mosquito pools tested positive for West Nile, with three confirmed fatal cases of the disease and that number is expected to grow. The Shelby County Health Department says we are in the peak of the West Nile season.

Customers like Shirley Epps are stocking up on mosquito repellant, fearing the recent West Nile Virus outbreak.

"Yea it looks like it's getting worse than it used to be,” Epps told ABC24 News.

That's helping sales at Hubbard's Hardware in Berclair. Employees say in the past 4 months all their mosquito repellants are flying off the shelves.

According to the CDC there are 10 cases of West Nile in Arkansas and 2 people have died. In Mississippi there have been more than 80 cases and 2 deaths while only 5 cases of West Nile have been reported in Tennessee. But beware.

"Last week the collections that were tested, out of 163 we had 100 different locations that were positive. What that indicates is that the virus is very widespread,” said Dr. Dan Springer with the Shelby County Vector Control.

So widespread, Shelby County health officials are distributing mosquito eating fish to fight the virus. They're called gambusia fish. They're tiny but have big appetites. Dr. Springer says one fish can eat up to 120 mosquito eggs a day.

"Don't panic, take precautions,” Dr. Springer stated.

That's exactly what people are doing.

"When I'm watering I try to put on longer sleeves and all that good stuff and my sister got me some repellant and I spray it on,” said Epps.

Dr. Springer says the majority of people infected by the virus never develop any symptoms or know they have it. Others develop fever, headaches, and nausea. In rare cases, people can die from it. There is no vaccine.

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