BATON ROUGE– Louisiana experienced more West Nile virus cases in 2005 than it did in 2003 or 2004, but not because of hurricanes.
The Department of Health reports 22 new cases of West Nile that were detected after the last case count, which was issued Nov. 17, bringing last year’s West Nile total to 177. There were also 10 deaths from West Nile in the past year.
In 2004, there were 114 cases of West Nile and seven deaths and in 2003 there were 122 cases and seven deaths from the disease. The largest West Nile outbreak in Louisiana was in 2002, when the state experienced 329 cases and 25 deaths.
“The majority of cases in 2005 occurred in North Louisiana, with Caddo Parish having the most cases overall, and in the Baton Rouge area, with East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parish having the second and third-highest case counts,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. “We only saw sporadic activity in the Greater New Orleans area and in Southwest Louisiana after Katrina and Rita, which shows the hurricanes did not cause a West Nile outbreak.”
In addition to the West Nile cases, other mosquito-borne illnesses have occurred in Louisiana this year. There has been one case of St. Louis encephalitis from Orleans Parish, one case of Eastern Equine encephalitis in St. John Parish and one case of LaCrosse virus from St. Tammany Parish.
LaCrosse, St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern Equine encephalitis and West Nile virus all are spread to humans through mosquito bites, begin with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death.
To avoid mosquito-borne illness, residents should 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.
For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site, www.oph.dhh.louisiana.gov.