The Department of Health today confirms 12 new human cases of West Nile virus, giving Louisiana a total of 133 cases thus far in 2006. Of all cases reported, 67 are the more serious form of West Nile virus that infects the brain and spinal cord.
Eight of the new cases are West Nile neuro-invasive disease, this more serious form of the virus. These cases are from Calcasieu (1), East Baton Rouge (1), Jefferson (2), Orleans (3) and Rapides (1) parishes.
There were also four new cases of West Nile Fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms, reported from Ascension (1), Assumption (1), Jefferson (1) and Tangipahoa parishes. Also, a previously reported West Nile case from St. Tammany Parish initially diagnosed as neuro-invasive West Nile has since been reclassified as a West Nile Fever case.
No additional asymptomatic West Nile cases, meaning the infected people had the virus but did not feel ill, were reported this week. There have been 19 cases of this form of West Nile reported in 2006. Asymptomatic 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.