Baton Rouge – The Department of Health announced 21 new West Nile cases today, mostly from the Shreveport/Bossier City area. However, all cases were contracted and had symptom onset prior to Hurricane Katrina.
No new cases were reported from Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard or Plaquemines parishes. State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard said that because there are not many birds present in that area, he does not anticipate new cases of West Nile virus in the near future.
“West Nile virus transmission occurs from birds to mosquitoes and then to humans,” Dr. Ratard said. “Until birds come back in regular force in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, there will be no new transmissions of West Nile in that area.”
The new West Nile cases are from Acadia (1), Bossier (4), Caddo (8), East Baton Rouge (1), Lasalle (1), Livingston (2), Ouachita (1), Rapides (1), Union (1) and Vernon (1) parishes.
Two more deaths from West Nile occurred, making six deaths from the virus so far this year, but because of privacy concerns expressed by some of the families of the deceased, LDH is not releasing their parishes of residence. A complete breakdown listing deceased West Nile victims will be issued at the end of West Nile season.
The health department has suspended dead bird testing and surveillance for the remainder of this year to direct all resources toward resuming surveillance of human cases. The LDH Infectious Disease and Epidemiology section is working aggressively to re-establish its human case surveillance activities with other labs in state. The state’s Office of Public Health Lab in New Orleans, which confirmed human cases of West Nile, is inaccessible following Hurricane Katrina.
To avoid West Nile virus, residents should 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.
Dr. Ratard also emphasized that because the virus had been detected everywhere in Louisiana prior to Hurricane Katrina, it is equally important for residents of areas not affected by the hurricane to follow these precautions.
For more information on West Nile virus, visit the LDH Web site, www.oph.dhh.louisiana.gov.