The Department of Health today confirms 19 new human cases of West Nile virus, giving Louisiana a total of 48 cases thus far in 2006.

Fourteen 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 Jefferson (1), Orleans (2), Vernon (1), Ouachita (2), St. Tammany (5), Tangipahoa (2) and Washington (1) Parishes.  Of the 48 cases of West Nile that have been reported this year, 30 are the more serious form of the illness.

There were also five new cases of West Nile Fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms, reported from Ascension (1), East Baton Rouge (1), Rapides (1), Livingston (1) and St. Tammany (1) Parishes.

In addition to the West Nile virus cases, a case of LaCrosse virus was reported from St. Tammany Parish.  West Nile and LaCrosse viruses both spread to humans through mosquito bites.  The majority of people who get the virus experience no illness or an infection similar to a mild flu with fever, headache and fatigue.  Rarely, the virus can cause brain damage or death.

During this week last year, there were 59 cases of West Nile reported, with 38 cases being neuro-invasive.  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 Office of Public Health Web site at