Baton Rouge – The Department of Health announced 19 new West Nile cases today.
A delay occurred in reporting of the new cases because the state’s public health lab is located in New Orleans and was inaccessible following Hurricane Katrina. However, the staff has re-established its surveillance activities from the LDH/OPH headquarters in Baton Rouge and will resume case reporting by using other lab facilities for testing and confirmation.
The new West Nile cases are from Bossier (1), Caddo (6), Iberia (2), Jefferson (1), Livingston (4), Orleans (1), Ouachita (2) and Webster (2) parishes. No new deaths as a result of West Nile virus have occurred. There have been four deaths from West Nile this year, but because of privacy concerns expressed by some of the families of thedeceased, LDH is not releasing their parish of residence.
Concerns about increased West Nile cases have been expressed following Hurricane Katrina and the massive flooding that occurred in the New Orleans metro area. State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard advises citizens to follow the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites to prevent contracting West Nile virus.
“There are many uncertainties about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on West Nile distribution,” Dr. Ratard said. “Obviously in the areas directly affected by the hurricane, the transmission of the virus has been completely disrupted right now. But, mosquitoes will become very abundant in flood waters and after a period of drying we expect to start seeing more mosquitoes and people will be at a greater risk of being infected and must follow the proper safety precautions.”
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.