The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is confirming the state’s second West Nile virus death, an individual older than 75. The state’s latest surveillance report also includes 14 new West Nile virus cases, bringing this year’s total number of cases to 29.

Image/CDC
Image/CDC

DHH issues a weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report that details cases detected thus far by parish. This week’s new infections include neuroinvasive disease cases in Caddo (3), East Baton Rouge (2), Ascension (1) and Livingston (1) parishes. There were also new cases of West Nile fever reported from Caddo (3), Bossier (1) and Tangipahoa (1) parishes, and asymptomatic cases in Caddo (1) and Livingston (1) parishes. This week’s cases can be found in the weekly West Nile virus Surveillance report by clicking¬†here.

“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 more than 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 take precautions against mosquito bites.”

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.

Last year, Louisiana saw 34 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state, which was down from 2002’s high of 204 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease.