West Nile virus infections have been identified in 23 people in Louisiana according to the most recent report issued by the Department of Health and Hospitals. Of the 23 total cases, 18 people have shown symptoms related to the virus and five people were never ill. Of the 18 symptomatic cases, 15 of them are the more serious, neuroinvasive disease and three are West Nile fever.

The nine most recently confirmed human cases of a neuroinvasive illness are from Jefferson (2), St. John, Concordia, Rapides, Caddo, Ouachita, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. The latest case of West Nile fever comes from Caddo Parish.

At about this time last year, Louisiana had reported 121 total West Nile virus cases.

The Department of Health will update this report on a regular basis throughout the remainder of the year.

Health officials characterize West Nile virus three ways: a neuroinvasive illness is severe and typically results in a swelling of the brain or spinal cord. People with this illness are at risk of brain damage or death. West Nile fever is less severe, with most people only suffering mild, flu-like symptoms. People who are asymptomatic were never ill and were only discovered to have the West Nile antibodies when blood work was done for some other reason (such as donating blood).

Other findings in the most recent report include:

·       Total Human Cases: 23 (15 neuroinvasive, 3 fever, 5 asymptomatic).

·       Deaths: No human deaths to date have been linked to WNV this year.

·       Other mosquito-borne illnesses: LaCrosse (0), Eastern Equine (0), St. Louis encephalitis (1).

·       Horses: 8 confirmed cases of equine West Nile virus, 30 cases of Eastern Equine encephalitis.

·       Sentinel Chickens: There have been 27 sentinel chickens confirmed with West Nile and 4 confirmed with St. Louis encephalitis in Louisiana.

·       Dead Birds: Of 30 birds tested for West Nile, 3 have tested positive.

·       Wild Birds: 1,947 wild birds submitted for testing; 71 birds tested positive.

·       Mosquito Pools: 18,207 pools of mosquitoes have been submitted for testing. These tests confirm West Nile activity in 23 parishes.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites. Health officials continue to urge citizens to take the necessary precautions to limit their exposure to this virus.

Precautions include: Use 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 homes and make sure windows and doors have secure screens.