The Department of Health today confirms 14 new human cases of West Nile virus, putting Louisiana’s total for the current year to 172. Of all cases reported to date, 83 are the more serious form of West Nile virus that infects the brain and spinal cord.
Only one of the new cases (from Rapides Parish) is the serious, neuro-invasive disease. There were 12 cases of West Nile Fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms. These cases include two each from Ascension and Orleans parishes, and one case each from Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Livingston, Richland, St. Bernard and West Baton Rouge parishes.
There was one case of asymptomatic West Nile reported from Jefferson 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 and a case of Eastern Equine encephalitis have been reported this year.
Eastern Equine encephalitis, West Nile virus 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.
At this time last year, there had been 129 cases of West Nile reported statewide. For all of 2005, there were 188 West Nile cases (118 neuro-invasive) and 11 deaths from the disease. In 2004, there were 114 cases of West Nile (84 neuro-invasive) and seven deaths and in 2003 there were 122 cases (101 neuro-invasive) and seven deaths from the disease.
The highest year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 329 cases (204 neuro-invasive) and 25 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.
For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site at www.dhh.louisiana.gov.