Baton Rouge – The Department of Health is investigating two possible cases, one from Shreveport and one from Bossier City, of mosquito-borne illnesses in north Louisiana. 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.
LDH has sent the samples from the two individuals to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where further testing will determine whether either individual has one of the mosquito-borne diseases. However, until the test results come back, the department cannot say conclusively whether either individual is infected.
“It is possible either individual could be the first human case of West Nile virus this year, but we are awaiting test results to confirm that before we announce West Nile or St. Louis Encephalitis has begun spreading in people,” said LDH Secretary David W. Hood.
At the last count, 33 birds in 24 parishes had tested positive for West Nile virus, which indicated the disease was spreading statewide and could begin spreading to humans. Both St. Louis Encephalitis and West Nile virus, spread through mosquitoes, begin with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death. Because the two diseases are so similar in cause and outcome, LDH relies on extensive testing to distinguish and diagnose them.
“With both diseases, most people who become infected experience very mild symptoms and can fight off the illness,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. “We tend to see severe cases only in people who are older or who have weakened immune systems.”
To avoid West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis, 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 West Nile virus, visit the OPH Web site, www.FightTheBiteLouisiana.com