The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has confirmed four new human cases of West Nile Virus, bringing this year's total to eight. The four new cases are from Washington, Vernon and Tangipahoa parishes and include Louisiana's first cases this year of neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of West Nile Virus. These cases are 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.
Of the new cases reported, three were neuroinvasive disease (Washington, Tangipahoa and Vernon parishes), and one was West Nile Fever (Washington Parish). So far this year, Louisiana has confirmed three neuroninvasive disease cases, three West Nile fever and two asymptomatic cases.
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 these 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.