Baton Rouge --- After two weeks with no birds testing positive for West Nile virus, the Department of Health today announced that 19 new West Nile virus cases in dead birds have been detected. This brings the total to 71 for this year. Seven parishes that previously had no reports of infected dead birds also have been added to the list. Those seven parishes are Ascension, Bossier, Claiborne, Evangeline, LaSalle, St. Charles and St. John. The virus now has appeared in 41 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.
No humans have tested positive for the virus, and State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard says there are no serious suspect cases in sight at this time.
The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Diagnostic Laboratory has tested 1,325 birds so far this year, and citizens have reported more than 10,000 dead birds to parish health units and public health workers.
“While the latest reports show the virus has spread to seven more parishes, we are heartened by the fact that there are no human cases yet,” said Secretary David W. Hood. “However, after the recent flurry of rains in our state, which can lead to increased mosquito activity, I hope people will continue to be vigilant in the steps they take to lessen their chance of being bitten by a West Nile-carrying mosquito.”
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.
West Nile virus, which humans contract through mosquito bites, begins with flu-like symptoms. Most people infected with the virus do not experience severe effects, but in extreme cases West Nile can cause encephalitis and lead to brain damage or death.
Last year, the virus infected 329 people and killed 25 in Louisiana. During the 2002 outbreak, the state ranked fourth nationwide in West Nile virus cases and deaths. Illinois (884 cases, 64 deaths), Michigan (614 cases, 51 deaths) and Ohio (441 cases, 31 deaths) had higher rates of West Nile infection than Louisiana.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit the OPH Web site, www.FighttheBiteLouisiana.com.