The Department of Health today confirms 15 new human cases of West Nile virus, giving Louisiana at total of 29 cases thus far in 2006.

Eight 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 (2), East Baton Rouge (2), Orleans (1), St. Tammany (1), Tangipahoa (1) and Vermilion (1). Of the 29 cases of West Nile that have been reported this year, 16 are this 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), St. Tammany (2), Tangipahoa (1) and Washington (1) parishes.

Two asymptomatic West Nile cases, meaning the infected people had the virus but did not feel ill, were reported from Caddo and Washington parishes. Asymptomatic cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.

In addition to the West Nile virus cases, a human case of Eastern Equine encephalitis was reported from East Baton Rouge Parish. West Nile and Eastern Equine encephalitis both spread to humans through mosquito bites, begin with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death.

During this time last year, there were 42 cases of West Nile reported. 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