State health officials today released a final West Nile virus case count for 2004. There were 114 human cases and seven deaths in 2004.

The Department of Health last issued a West Nile virus case  West Nile Virus

             Cases    Deaths

 2001       1             0

 2002     329         25

 2003     122           7

 2004     114           7
count on Dec. 2, 2004, with 108 cases detected. Since then, six more cases were detected, one each from Beauregard, Caldwell, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson Davis and West Baton Rouge parishes.

In addition to West Nile, the state also experienced cases of other mosquito-borne illness this season. There were three human cases of LaCrosse virus reported this year. In addition, several horses from Northwest Louisiana tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, although no human cases of that mosquito-borne illness were reported for 2004.

LaCrosse, St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus all are spread to humans through mosquito bites, begin with flu-like symptoms and in extreme  cases can lead to brain damage or death.

Louisiana saw slightly fewer cases but the same amount of deaths as in 2003, when the state saw 121 cases and seven deaths. Both seasons saw noticeably lower infections than in 2002, when the state had a total of 330 cases and 25 deaths from West Nile virus.

“West Nile virus appears to be here to stay in Louisiana,” said Dr. Gary Balsamo, state public health veterinarian. “As a result, we will be taking birds for testing at our parish health units all year long. In the past, we opened testing in the spring and summer months and continued until early fall. However, we have been seeing positive birds even through the winter months. This tells us that West Nile is present year-round, and people should always be vigilant about avoiding mosquito bites when outdoors.”

To report a dead bird, please contact your parish health unit for information on how to properly retrieve the bird. For more information on how to take precautions against contracting a mosquito-borne disease or to receive updated information about tracking and surveillance of the virus, please visit the LDH Web site,