Over the past week, the Department of Health has confirmed 16 new cases of West Nile virus in Louisiana. Six of the new cases come from East Baton Rouge Parish, two from Caddo and one case each from Bossier, Calcasieu, Livingston, Madison, Ouachita, St. Landry, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. In addition, a 66 year-old male from St. Landry Parish is the second person with West Nile to die this year.

To date, there have been a total of 35 confirmed cases of West Nile and two deaths from the disease. Of the 35 cases, 29 are serious in nature (neuro invasive disease). There have also been two confirmed cases of St. Louis encephalitis (one death) and three human cases of LaCrosse virus.

LaCrosse, St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile virus all are spread to humans through mosquito bites, begin with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death.

According to Dr. Raoult Ratard, state epidemiologist, the state is now reaching the peak season for mosquito-borne diseases.

“We are now in the peak of the arbo-viral encephalitis season, so we can expect more cases to come. People should really take precautions,” he said.

Ratard advises a three-step process for protection from West Nile and other illnesses carried by mosquitoes.

“First, mosquito-proof your house by repairing screens, windows and doors. Protect yourself with long-sleeved clothing and mosquito repellent when outside at times of mosquito activity. Finally, remove standing water around your house in order to not inadvertently create mosquito breeding grounds,” Ratard added.

Ratard says his office continues to get reports from mosquito control districts throughout the state that the hardest hit areas have many neighborhoods where citizens have not emptied water containers, leading to fertile mosquito breeding sites.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site, www.FightTheBiteLouisiana.com.