The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is confirming six new West Nile virus cases this week, bringing this year's total number of cases to 15.
This week's new infections include three cases of neuroinvasive disease in Caddo Parish; two cases of West Nile fever, one in Caddo and one in Livingston Parish; and an asymptomatic case in East Baton Rouge Parish.
"If you're going outside, protect yourself," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. "If mosquitoes are biting, everyone is at risk. We recommend you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your children. We encourage everyone to control the mosquito population by dumping standing water from containers around their home. This prevents mosquitoes from reproducing."
Humans contract West Nile from bites by infected mosquitoes. 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 have 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 people 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.
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 here.