The Department of Health today updated the total number of West Nile virus cases for the year. Since the last report, four new cases have been identified and two prior cases have been reclassified. This brings the total number of West Nile virus cases to 194 for the current year.

The four new cases include one case of the serious, neuro-invasive disease (from Rapides Parish) and two cases of the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms (East Baton Rouge and Calcasieu parishes).

There was one case of asymptomatic West Nile reported from Rapides Parish. People with these cases do not feel ill and do not know they have an infection. These cases are typically detected through blood donations or through routine medical tests.

A West Nile fever case from Orleans was reclassified as an encephalitis case, and an encephalitis case from St. Tammany was later discovered to be West Nile fever.

In addition, the state health department has learned that nine people have died from West Nile virus and one person succumbed to Eastern Equine encephalitis this year.

According to state health officials, all West Nile virus cases are investigated, but there is often a delay in getting reports when someone dies.

“Our regional disease surveillance specialists investigate all cases of serious, neuro-invasive West Nile when they are reported,” explained Dr. Raoult Ratard, state epidemiologist. “But, it is rare for a person to die during the time it is investigated. Therefore, we usually learn of a death only when we conduct a follow-up or if the family or hospital reports it to our office.”

St. Louis and Eastern Equine encephalitis, and West Nile and LaCrosse virus all spread to humans through mosquito bites. The majority of people who get these diseases experience no illness or an infection similar to a mild flu with fever, headache and fatigue.

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.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site at