Louisiana now has had 59 human cases of West Nile virus for 2005, and 38 of the cases are neuro-invasive disease, the more serious form of the virus.

State health officials reported 17 new West Nile cases this week, from Bossier (2), Caddo (6), Calcasieu (1), DeSoto (3), Lincoln (1), Orleans (1), Ouachita (2) and St. Helena (1) parishes. According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard, much of the new viral activity is taking place in north Louisiana, with the Shreveport and Monroe regions reporting 14 of the 17 new cases.

At this time last year, the state had reported 35 human cases of West Nile virus, 29 of which were the neuro-invasive form. Overall in 2004, there were 114 cases of West Nile and in 2003 there were 122 cases. The highest year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 329 cases.

“Although there have been more cases reported so far this year than last year, this West Nile season appears likely to mirror 2003 and 2004, rather than 2002, when there was a widespread outbreak of the virus,” Dr. Ratard said. “However, it is still too early in West Nile season to draw a definite conclusion of how many cases we will see. Therefore, it is imperative that everyone take the necessary precautions against mosquitoes.”
West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites, begins with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death.

To avoid West Nile virus, apply mosquito repellant, wear long sleeves and long pants and avoid wearing perfumes or colognes when outside for prolonged periods of time. Also, remove any standing water from around your home and make sure your windows and doors have secure screens.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site, www.oph.dhh.louisiana.gov.