DHH officials confirm six new cases of West Nile Virus
Two cases of West Nile virus in Caddo Parish are among the six new cases of West Nile reported just moments ago by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Late Thursday afternoon in a news conference in Shreveport, DHH officials confirmed the state’s first death from West Nile was in Caddo Parish this week.
The six new cases, including the death, bring this year's total number of cases to nine. In addition to Caddo Parish’s two neuroinvasive diseases, new infections include one case of neuroinvasive disease in East Baton Rouige Parish and one case of neuroinvasive disease in St. Tammany Parish.
Also, there is a new case off West Nile fever in Caddo Parish and one new asymptomatic case in Livingston Parish. Additionally, a previously reported asymptomatic case in Livingston Parish has been upgraded to West Nile fever.
"Our sympathies go out to the family of the state's first West Nile virus death," said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "We can't stress enough how important it is for everyone to be vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families from this deadly disease. Mosquito repellent, long sleeves and pants will protect you from mosquitos and ultimately this virus."
Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. When people are infected with West Nile, the virus will affect them one of three ways. West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage.
The milder viral infection is West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms. The majority of people who contract West Nile will be asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms. These cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.
About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease. Residents who are 65 years old and older are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.
"West Nile virus is a disease that should not be taken lightly," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. "As long as the mosquitos are out, everyone is at risk. We encourage everyone to control the mosquito population by dumping standing water from containers around their home. This prevents mosquitos from reproducing."
Last year, Louisiana saw 34 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state, which is down from 2002's high of 204 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease. DHH has been tracking West Nile Virus for more than a decade, and statistics about its occurrence in Louisiana can be found online at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fightthebite.