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, with one each in Caddo and Livingston parishes, and an asymptomatic case in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Culex mosquito
Culex quinquefasciatus
Image/CDC

“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.”

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause encephalitis, a brain inflammation. West Nile virus was first detected in North America in 1999 in New York. Prior to that it had only been found in Africa, Eastern Europe, and West Asia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.

About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

There is no specific treatment for WNV 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. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page