Baton Rouge – The Department of Health has announced the first West Nile virus case of 2008. The case was discovered during a routine screening of a blood donor from Livingston Parish.
The donor was asymptomatic, which means that the individual did not show any signs of illness.
According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard, while this case was discovered before the typical West Nile virus season started, it does not necessarily mean that the 2008 season has fully begun or will be especially active.
“Usually the cases of West Nile infection first appear from end of June to mid July. This human infection is very early in the year, as it was discovered in the third week of March. However, as it is an isolated case, we do not think it is a signal that the season will be worse than in past years,” he said.
Ratard also stressed that the detection of this case proves that the Department of Health and Hospitals’ year-round surveillance system is working.
“This infection reminds us that there may be local circumstances that can be conducive to transmission on a low level outside the established season. This unusual case is an example of why we monitor the virus all year,” Ratard said.
West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites. If a person develops symptoms, the symptoms are flu-like. In extreme cases, the virus can lead to brain damage or death. Citizens are always urged to take the necessary precautions throughout the year to limit their exposure to this virus.
LDH urges citizens to take precautions to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. These precautions are to:
- Make sure your house is mosquito-proofed and has tightly-fitting windows and doors.
- In your yard, you should empty any containers filled with water, as these are where mosquitoes breed.
- Be sure to wear long pants and sleeves when you go outside, and wear mosquito repellent on exposed skin.