Baton Rouge --- The state’s total of 2003 West Nile cases reached 46 Tuesday, with the addition of six new cases from Bossier (two cases), Caddo (two cases), Livingston (one case) and Morehouse (one case) parishes. Although state health officials have reported new cases each week since mid-July, Louisiana’s case count remains significantly lower than that of other states.
“Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming all have seen hundreds of cases this year, much as our state saw during last year’s outbreak,” said Secretary David W. Hood. “We have been lucky to see a very small outbreak of the virus here in Louisiana, and we hope that trend will continue. However, I encourage everyone to continue taking precautions against mosquito bites, even if they are not spending as much time outdoors now as the summer months draw to a close.”
In Louisiana, much of the outbreak has centered in the Caddo/Bossier area. The two parishes have 31 of the state’s 46 cases, with 27 in Caddo alone. West Nile virus cases also have been reported in 11 other parishes this year --- Iberia, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Morehouse, Ouachita, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Union.
Public health officials also announced the virus is entrenched in dead birds from Ouachita Parish and have stopped testing specimens from that area. This status was adopted in Bossier, Caddo, Morehouse and Natchitoches parishes. Dead birds are early warning signs of the virus, but when a number of specimens from a parish have tested positive, state health officials have enough evidence to conclude the virus is present and stop testing birds. However, citizens still are encouraged to report the location of dead birds so health officials can work with local abatement districts to target mosquito spraying.
Nationwide, West Nile virus cases number 1,764, as of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest update. Colorado (635 cases) has the most reported cases, with Nebraska (259 cases) and South Dakota (250 cases) following. In addition to having fewer cases than other states, Louisiana health officials are seeing fewer cases than at this time last year, when the state had announced 205 cases and eight deaths as of Aug. 29, 2002.
To lessen your risk of contracting West Nile virus, 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.
For more information on how to take precautions against contracting West Nile or to receive updated information about tracking and surveillance of the virus, please visit the Office of Public Health Web site,www.FighttheBiteLouisiana.com.