The Department of Health today confirms five human cases of West Nile virus, giving Louisiana seven cases of West Nile so far in 2006.

One of the cases, from Caddo Parish, is a resident who developed neuro-invasive disease from West Nile. Among the other new cases, a Bossier Parish resident developed West Nile fever, the milder form of the virus with no serious illness, and three residents from Lafourche, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes had asymptomatic West Nile, meaning they had the virus but did not feel ill. 

Last week, LDH had reported a West Nile encephalitis case from Tangipahoa Parish and a West Nile fever case from St. Tammany Parish. The health department has not confirmed any deaths from West Nile.

“We reported the first two cases this week, we have seen five more cases this week, and we expect to begin seeing more cases in the coming weeks,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. “People should take this as a warning that we are in full West Nile virus transmission season, and everyone needs to be aware of the risk and do all they can to avoid mosquito bites.”

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 illness 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