The Department of Health today confirms seven new human cases of West Nile virus. These new cases mark 14 incidences of West Nile in Louisiana so far this year.

Six 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 Assumption (1), St. Tammany (2), Tangipahoa (1), Washington (1) and West Baton Rouge (1) parishes.

There was also a new case of West Nile fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms, reported from St. Tammany Parish.

In the past two weeks, there have been two cases of West Nile virus neuro-invasive disease reported from Caddo and Tangipahoa parishes; two West Nile fever cases from Bossier Parish and St. Tammany parishes; and three residents from Lafourche, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes who had asymptomatic West Nile, meaning they had the virus but did not feel ill. Asymptomatic cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.

During this week in 2005, there were 26 cases of West Nile reported, and 15 of those cases were neuro-invasive disease.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites, begins with flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or death.

In previous years, the first cases of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses began appearing in late June or early July. In 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