The Department of Health today confirms 15 new human cases of West Nile virus, bringing Louisiana’s total for the current year to 190. Of all cases reported to date, 88 are the more serious form of West Nile virus that infects the brain and spinal cord.
The five serious cases of neuro-invasive disease were confirmed in Bossier, Caddo, Concordia, Jefferson and Orleans parishes. There were nine cases of West Nile Fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms. These cases include two from East Baton Rouge, and one case each from Ascension, Caddo, Franklin, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. A previously reported case from Union Parish was reassigned to Ouachita Parish.
There was one case of asymptomatic West Nile reported from St. Mary 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.
In addition to the West Nile virus cases, two cases of LaCrosse virus, two cases of St. Louis encephalitis and one case of Eastern Equine encephalitis have been reported this year.
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. Rarely, the diseases can cause brain damage or death.
Of the 88 serious, neuro-invasive cases, 37 are people above the age of 60. The age for one case has not yet been determined. For the remaining cases, the age breakdown is as follows:
Ages 0 – 14: 2 cases Ages 15 – 29: 11 cases
Ages 30 – 44: 17 cases Ages 45 – 59: 20 cases
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 http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/.