The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) confirmed 13 new cases of West Nile virus this week, of which five were neuroinvasive disease infections, bringing this year’s total to 42 reported cases.
This week’s new infections include neuroinvasive disease cases in Caddo (3), East Baton Rouge (1) and Livingston (1) parishes. There were also new cases of West Nile fever reported from Caddo (4), Calcasieu (1) and East Baton Rouge (1) parishes, and asymptomatic cases in Ascension (1) and East Baton Rouge (1) parishes.
“People should always be on guard around mosquitos,” said DHH State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. “As long as mosquitos are biting, we are all at risk. In previous years, we’ve had West Nile virus cases as late as December, so don’t let your guard down.”
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.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been 124 cases nationally, including seven fatalities as of Aug. 12.