The Department of Health today confirms 27 new human cases of West Nile virus, giving Louisiana a total of 102 cases thus far in 2006.
Ten of the new cases are West Nile neuro-invasive disease, the more serious form of the virus that infects the brain and spinal cord. These cases are from Ascension (3), Calcasieu (2), East Baton Rouge (1), Jefferson (1), Lafourche (1), Orleans (1) and St. Tammany (1) parishes. Of the 102 cases of West Nile that have been reported this year, 49 are this more serious form of the illness.
There were also 10 new cases of West Nile fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms, reported from Ascension (3), Caddo (1), Livingston (1), Rapides (1), St. Bernard (1), St. Tammany (2) and Union (1) parishes.
Seven asymptomatic West Nile cases, meaning the infected people had the virus but did not feel ill, were reported from Caddo (1), Calcasieu (2), Grant (1), Natchitoches (1), Rapides (1) and Union (1) parishes. Asymptomatic cases are typically detected through blood donations or through routine medical tests.
St. Tammany Parish has reported the most cases of West Nile virus so far in 2006, with 25 cases. Last year, East Baton Rouge (26 cases), Caddo (24 cases) and Livingston (21 cases) parishes had the highest West Nile counts.
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.
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.