The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is reminding the public to take precautions against mosquito bites that can expose people to West Nile virus (WNV) and dengue virus.

In Louisiana, we typically see more mosquito activity in the warmer summer months, increasing the risk for mosquito-borne diseases like WNV and dengue.

West Nile virus

While 80% of human cases are asymptomatic, many people can develop West Nile fever. Symptoms of West Nile fever, which is a flu-like illness, can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and/or rashes.

A small percentage of people sickened by West Nile virus can develop a severe form of infection called West Nile neuroinvasive disease or West Nile encephalitis, which can result in hospitalization and death. Symptoms can include high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, numbness, coma and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks and carry the risk of death or permanent brain damage.

In 2023, Louisiana experienced 65 West Nile cases, including 46 neuroinvasive disease cases and four deaths. Last year’s cases were located throughout the state, with multiple regions seeing more cases than they have had in several years. Region 4 (Acadiana) reported 14 cases in 2023, its highest number of cases since 2013. This emphasizes the need for awareness statewide, and for all Louisiana residents to take precautions against mosquitoes.

Dengue

Dengue cases throughout the Americas have surged dramatically since 2023. The dengue virus is spread to people by mosquitoes and can cause mild or severe illness. While no locally acquired cases of dengue have been reported in Louisiana in recent history, the mosquito species which transmits the virus is present in the state, and locally acquired cases have been reported in Texas and Florida. Due to the outbreaks in other countries and U.S. territories, travelers are at an increased risk of infection while abroad and have the potential to return to Louisiana while carrying the virus. Travelers should take extra precautions against mosquitoes while traveling and after returning to Louisiana.

Tips to protect yourself against mosquitoes

  • Wear EPA-registered mosquito repellent when you are outside and always follow product label instructions.
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing, but do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin. 
  • If you will be outside for an extended period of time, consider a travel-size container of repellent that can easily be carried with you.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. 
  • To protect yourself from being exposed to mosquitoes while indoors, make sure that windows and doors are tight-fitting and that all screens are free of holes.

Protecting your home from mosquitoes

  • Reduce the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around your home, which is where mosquitoes breed.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools, buckets, trash cans, children's toys or anything that could collect water.
  • Try to quickly discard or store any unnecessary containers around your property to reduce the chances of water accumulating.
  • Check and clean roof gutters routinely. Clogged gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Water gardens and ornamental pools can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate. Take steps to prevent stagnation, such as adding fish or aeration.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended for as little as a month can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.

Visit Fight the Bite for more resources.