Baton Rouge --- The total count of dead birds infected with the West Nile virus in the state of Louisiana stands at 41, with the addition of eight dead birds the Department of Health reported this week. Four of the eight latest birds are from Franklin, Grant, Iberia and Winn parishes, where no West Nile virus specimens had been previously reported. The remaining four birds came from East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Livingston and Rapides parishes, all of which had previously reported infected specimens.

Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Diagnostic Lab has tested 771 birds for the virus since 2003 West Nile surveillance began on March 21. The birds have come from 28 parishes statewide.

In addition to the dead birds, LDH is awaiting test results from two people, one from Shreveport and one from Bossier Parish, to determine if either has a mosquito-borne illness. In both cases, multiple laboratory tests have been conducted on blood samples and the test results have proven inconclusive for either West Nile virus or St. Louis Encephalitis. Last week, LDH sent the samples from the two individuals to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where further testing will determine whether either individual is infected.

"It is imperative that citizens begin protecting themselves from West Nile, especially now that we have reports of possible human cases," said Secretary David W. Hood. "Always apply mosquito repellant when outdoors, and check to make sure all screens on your windows and doors are secure to prevent bugs from coming inside. Also, be sure to remove any standing water from around your home."

West Nile virus, which is spread through mosquitoes, 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.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the OPH Web site,