The latest West Nile virus report issued by the Department of Health shows the illness being confirmed in residents from seven Louisiana parishes. In all, six people have been diagnosed with a severe, neuroinvasive disease (such as encephalitis) and two people with less serious cases of West Nile fever.

People living in Lafayette, Caddo, Morehouse, West Carroll, Livingston and Washington parishes have been diagnosed with the severe West Nile infection. The cases of West Nile fever come from Bossier and Caddo parishes.

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 severe 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 asymptotic were never ill and were only discovered to have the WNV 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: 12 (6 neuroinvasive, 2 fever, 4 asymptomatic).
--   Deaths: No human deaths to date have been linked to WNV.
--   Other mosquito-borne illnesses (LaCrosse, Eastern Equine and St. Louis encephalitis): None.
--   Horses: 5 confirmed cases of equine West Nile virus, 24 cases of Eastern Equine encephalitis.
--   Sentinel Chickens: There have been 16 sentinel chickens confirmed with WNV and 2 confirmed with St. Louis encephalitis in Louisiana.
--   Dead Birds: Of 28 birds tested for WNV, 2 have tested positive.
--   Wild Birds: 1,704 wild birds submitted for testing; 58 birds tested positive.
--   Mosquito Pools: 16,112 pools of mosquitoes have been submitted for testing. These tests confirm West Nile activity in 22 parishes.

The full report can be accessed by clicking here. The Department of Health will update this report on a regular basis throughout the remainder of the year.

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.