A widely-reported case of West Nile Virus from East Baton Rouge Parish is not the first 2007 human case of West Nile in Louisiana, according to health officials. Test results reviewed by the Louisiana Department of Health have confirmed that while the patient did have West Nile antibodies present in their system, there is evidence the virus was contracted between one and two years ago.
After being infected with West Nile Virus, a person will produce antibodies that will last a lifetime. According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard, deciding if a case of West Nile is a recent infection or an old one is sometimes difficult and requires looking at the type of antibody, the symptoms and even the epidemiologic situation. For this reason, LDH has a policy of testing all suspected cases in order to get an official case count each year.
Dr. Ratard explained, “About 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms at all. They might never even know they had the disease, unless they happen to go to a hospital within a couple of years and have blood tests that reveal they had at one time been infected with the virus. And that is what we saw with this latest case in East Baton Rouge,” he explained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the other 20 percent of infected people will show mild symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. A very few number of people show serious symptoms including convulsions, vision loss, numbness, disorientation, tremors, paralysis and coma.
Usually the first cases of West Nile infections in humans are reported at the beginning of July each year. Before now, the longest a season had gone without a human case was July 15.
In 2006, Louisiana had 202 cases of West Nile Virus and nine deaths.
To avoid West Nile virus, 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.