State health officials have confirmed two new cases of West Nile virus in northwest Louisiana, with one each in Bossier and Caddo parishes.
Louisiana continues to see an increase in West Nile virus infections, with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals reporting 15 new cases statewide and four deaths from the disease.
So far this year, six people have died from the virus, and DHH has detected 68 cases. More than half – 37– of this year's cases are West Nile neuro-invasive disease, the more serious form of the virus that infects the brain and spinal cord and can cause brain damage or death. This is the highest total of West Nile neuro-invasive infections that have occurred in the state since 2006.
"The increased cases we are seeing this year are a firm reminder that West Nile Virus is a serious disease, and people need to be vigilant about protecting themselves," said Dr. Raoult Ratard, DHH State Epidemiologist. "We know from 10 years of surveillance that this disease is active in every corner of the state, and people are at risk of getting it regardless of whether cases or deaths occurred in their parishes. Everyone should own their own health and take precautions against mosquito bites."
This week's 15 new infections include eight cases of neuro-invasive disease, with one each reported from Bossier, Caddo, Concordia, Jefferson, Tangipahoa, Union, Washington and Webster parishes. DHH issues a weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report that details cases detected thus far by parish, which is published here.
Symptoms for West Nile can range from neuroinvasive, when the brain or spinal swelling can threaten your life, to illness that does not feel serious at all.
The Centers for Disease Control recently warned that cases of the disease are up this year, urging people to take steps to prevent infections.
Outbreaks of West Nile virus disease occur each summer in the United States. This year, some areas of the country are experiencing earlier and greater activity. The CDC attributes this to a mild winter in much of the U.S., a very early spring, followed by very high temperatures and just the right rainfall patterns.
Thus far in 2012, 42 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 241 cases of West Nile virus disease, including four deaths, have been reported to CDC. This is the highest number of cases reported through the end of July since 2004. Almost 80 percent of the cases have been reported from three states, Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.