Baton Rouge --- The 2003 West Nile season still appears to be slowing, with only three new cases reported this week. The new cases were from Bossier, East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes.

West Nile Virus in Alligators

Health officials continue to receive calls about West Nile in alligators. The Louisiana State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has confirmed West Nile Virus infections in farm-raised alligators from three farms in Louisiana. In 2002, similar findings occurred on alligator farms in Georgia and Florida.

These alligator farms are not considered a public health threat, since humans have a minimal risk of catching West Nile from alligators. Mosquitoes still are considered the primary vector for spreading the virus to humans.

Humans also cannot get West Nile virus from eating properly cooked alligator meat, as heating kills the virus.

For more information about the alligator industry, call Noel Kinler, Fur and Refuge Division of the Department
 of Wildlife and Fisheries at 337-373-0032.

In addition to the new cases, the Department of Health also is reporting two deaths associated with the virus. One death was a 51-year-old female from Claiborne Parish who died Oct. 20. The other fatality was an 82-year-old man from Bossier who died on Sept. 3. Although his death happened last month, it was not reported to LDH as a West Nile-related death until this week. The Office of Public Health previously listed both individuals as West Nile patients.

Statewide, there have been 96 human cases of West Nile virus this year, with 49 
cases in Caddo and Bossier parishes alone. Three deaths also have occurred this year, including the two listed this week.

In addition to West Nile virus, there have been five cases and one death from St. 
Louis encephalitis this year, as well as one case of Eastern Equine encephalitis. However, new cases of West Nile and other mosquito borne viruses have decreased recently, and tests on dead birds in past weeks have yielded fewer positive results than at the beginning of summer.

“All of these factors are a good indication that our West Nile outbreak this year is indeed drawing to a close,” said LDH Secretary David W. Hood.

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 OPH Web site,