BATON ROUGE, La.—The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has confirmed one new human case of West Nile Virus, bringing this year's total to four. The new case comes from East Baton Rouge Parish. This case is reported in DHH's weekly Louisiana Arbovirus Surveillance Summary which can be found in the Surveillance Reports Section of the DHH website.
Health officials characterize West Nile infections three ways: neuroinvasive, West Nile fever and asymptomatic. A neuroinvasive illness is severe and typically results in a swelling of the brain or spinal cord. People with this illness are at risk of brain damage or death. West Nile fever is less severe, with most people only suffering mild, flu-like symptoms. Asymptomatic individuals were never ill and were only discovered to have the West Nile virus in their blood when blood work was done for some other reason, such as blood donation.
The new case is asymptomatic. This is the second asymptomatic case; the other is from St. Tammany Parish. There have been two cases of West Nile fever, both from Livingston Parish. There has not been a case of the more serious neuroinvasive disease this year. At this time last year, Louisiana had six cases of neuroinvasive disease, six cases of West Nile fever and seven asymptomatic cases.
At this pace, Louisiana is on track to have a record low year of West Nile Virus infections. In 2009, Louisiana recorded its lowest number with 29 West Nile virus infections, of that 11 cases were neuroinvasive disease. Louisiana's record high came in 2002 when the state reported 328 West Nile virus infections, of that 204 cases were neuroinvasive disease.
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 spread to humans through mosquito bites. DHH encourages residents to take the following precautions to protect themselves:
Residents can also help control the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around their home, which is where mosquitoes breed. Louisianians are encouraged to follow these tips:
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.