Baton Rouge --- Two humans who exhibited possible symptoms of either West Nile virus or St. Louis Encephalitis both tested negative for the disease. The two individuals, one from Shreveport and one from Bossier Parish, submitted blood samples last month, which the Office of Public Health sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for extensive testing that revealed neither individual had either mosquito-borne illness.
One individual had a case of viral meningitis that was not a result of West Nile virus or St. Louis Encephalitis. That individual had antibodies that suggested a possible case of West Nile virus had been contracted last year, but the individual does not have a new case of the disease and contracted meningitis from something else. The other individual had exhibited positive symptoms, but further serum testing revealed no trace of either virus. This means that individual either had false positive results or is experiencing the symptoms because of some other viral infection.
“It is good news that we have made it to June without any human cases of West Nile virus,” said Secretary David W. Hood. “I hope our citizens will continue to avoid contracting the virus by taking the necessary steps to prevent mosquito bites.”
West Nile virus 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 24 in Louisiana.
During surveillance last year, the Department of Health staff realized that in 90 percent of parishes where humans contracted the virus, dead birds had been discovered in that parish first. Reporting dead birds in the affected areas is an effective way to target mosquito abatement efforts and prevent human spread of the disease.
At last count, OPH had reported 52 dead birds in 34 parishes statewide, indicating the virus was spreading across Louisiana. LDH tested 81 birds in the past week, and all were negative for the virus.
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 about West Nile virus or St. Louis Encephalitis, visit the OPH Web site,www.FighttheBiteLouisiana.com