Baton Rouge --- The statewide total of humans infected with the West Nile virus has risen to 21, with six new cases from Caddo Parish reported today. So far, Caddo has been the parish hardest hit by West Nile virus, harboring 13 of Louisiana’s cases. All six victims contracted West Nile meningo-encephalitis, the more severe form of the virus. No West Nile-related deaths have been reported for 2003. 

No new cases from other parishes were reported in the latest results. However, a case of West Nile virus reported last week as being from Lincoln Parish has been reclassified as a case from Jackson Parish. Other parishes that have reported human cases of the virus this year are Iberia, Lafourche, Jefferson, Ouachita, St. Tammany and Terrebonne.  

“Nationwide, the number of reported West Nile cases tripled last week,” said Secretary David W. Hood. “Here in Louisiana, we have been fortunate in that we still are seeing fewer cases than were reported at this time last year. We hope this is partially because citizens are taking the necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites, and we hope they will continue to do so.”  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 203 cases of West Nile virus across the country, with five deaths.  Louisiana currently has the third highest number of cases, behind Colorado and Texas.  

Birds infected with the virus have been found in 46 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. However, with a significant number of infected birds being detected in Bossier (10 birds), Caddo (44 birds) and Natchitoches (10 birds) parishes, state health officials are no longer accepting dead birds for laboratory testing in those parishes.

Health officials explain that dead bird testing is a surveillance program that is intended only to determine whether or not West Nile is present in a particular parish. Once there is enough conclusive evidence to show the virus is firmly entrenched, there is no longer a scientific basis to continue testing. This is the situation in the three parishes where testing will no longer take place.

Citizens in those areas still are encouraged to call their parish health unit to report dead birds, as public health officials can use this information to help local mosquito abatement workers target their activities to specific areas. 

To lessen your risk of contracting 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 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,