The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) is reporting the state's first West Nile virus death of 2014. The death occurred in Caddo Parish. This week, LDH is confirming six new cases of West Nile virus, including the one death, bringing this year's total number of cases to nine. This week's new infections include four cases of neuroinvasive disease, with two cases in Caddo Parish, one case in East Baton Rouge Parish and one case in St. Tammany Parish. The state has one new case of West Nile fever in Caddo and one new asymptomatic case in Livingston Parish. In addition to these new cases, a previously reported asymptomatic case in Livingston Parish has been upgraded to West Nile fever.
"Our sympathies go out to the family of the state's first West Nile virus death," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "We can't stress enough how important it is for everyone to be vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families from this deadly disease. Mosquito repellent, long sleeves and pants will protect you from mosquitos and ultimately this virus."
Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. When people are infected with West Nile, the virus will affect them one of three ways. West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage. The milder viral infection is West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms. The majority of people who contract West Nile will be asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms. These cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.
About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease. Residents who are 65 years old and older are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.
"West Nile virus is a disease that should not be taken lightly," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. "As long as the mosquitos are out, everyone is at risk. We encourage everyone to control the mosquito population by dumping standing water from containers around their home. This prevents mosquitos from reproducing."
Last year, Louisiana saw 34 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state, which is down from 2002's high of 204 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease. LDH has been tracking West Nile Virus for more than a decade, and statistics about its occurrence in Louisiana can be found online at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fightthebite.
- If you will be outside, you should wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than 2 months. CDC recommends that you always follow the recommendations appearing on the product label when using repellent.
- Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin.
- To apply repellent to your face, spray on your hands and then rub on your face.
- Adults should always apply repellent to children.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time.
- Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
- Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors, and that all screens are free of holes.
Protecting Your Home
- Reduce the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around your home, which is where mosquitoes breed.
- Dispose of tin cans, ceramic pots and other unnecessary containers that have accumulated on your property. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools, buckets, trash cans, children's toys or anything that could collect water.
- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. Drainage holes that are located on the container sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
- Check and clean roof gutters routinely. They are often overlooked, but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family for a month can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.
Chikungunya Fever/Dengue Fever
This week, LDH begins including Chikungunya Fever and Dengue Fever in its weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Summary. DHH is reporting six confirmed international travel-associated cases of Chikungunya Fever and one case of Dengue Fever. There are no reports of local transmission. All cases were reported among people who acquired the infection during travel to countries where the virus is transmitted or experiencing an outbreak.
Anyone traveling abroad should also take the precautions listed above to protect themselves from mosquitoes in other countries. Mosquitoes in other parts of the world including the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Africa or Europe might infect you with chikungunya or dengue fever. For more information about these diseases, visit the CDC's website by clicking here.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.