Baton Rouge --- State health officials have released West Nile virus case counts from the 2003 season. During the past West Nile season, which began on March 21, 2003, 121 people from 33 parishes were infected with the virus, and seven of those people died from West Nile complications.  

Louisiana saw fewer cases and deaths in 2003 than in 2002, when the state had a total of 330 cases and 25 deaths from West Nile virus. 

“We plan to begin our bird surveillance for 2004 West Nile season in early spring,” said Department of Health Secretary David W. Hood. “This is our early warning system, which has proven effective in showing which areas will be hardest hit by West Nile in any given year and helps us work with local officials to target mosquito abatement programs.” 

LDH last issued a West Nile virus case count on Nov. 25, 2003, with 117 cases detected. Since then, four more cases were detected, from Calcasieu, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Terrebonne parishes. 

In addition to West Nile, state epidemiologists also detected cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis and cases of the LaCrosse virus during the 2003 outbreak. All diseases are mosquito-borne viruses. LDH detected one case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and eight St. Louis cases. There also was one St. Louis encephalitis-related death reported. 

The three cases of the LaCrosse virus all were detected late in 2003. Health officials believe all three individuals contracted the virus in October and began showing symptoms later. One of the victims, a 67-year-old female from Tangipahoa Parish, died of LaCrosse virus complications. The other two cases were from Calcasieu and St. Mary parishes. 

LaCrosse is a virus spread by mosquitoes, with symptoms similar to the other arboviruses. The virus can lead to encephalitis and fewer than one percent of people infected with this illness die from its complications. The disease is common in the Southeast. 

To lessen your risk of contracting West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis, apply mosquito repellent, 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. 

Click here for details on the West Nile 2003 totals (Adobe PDF)

For more information on how to take precautions against contracting a mosquito-borne disease or to receive updated information about tracking and surveillance of the virus, please visit the Office of Public Health Web site,