This Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is urging everyone to Fight the Bite, and protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases. This comes as DHH confirms two new West Nile virus deaths this week, bringing this year’s total to four West Nile virus deaths. The deaths are in Northwest Louisiana and the Capital Area Region. DHH is also reporting 19 new West Nile virus infections, of which six were neuroinvasive disease cases, bringing this year’s total to 80 reported infections.

West Nile virus
Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito/CDC

This week’s new infections include six neuroinvasive disease cases in Bossier (1), Caddo (3), East Baton Rouge (1) and St. Tammany (1) parishes. There were 10 new cases of West Nile fever; Ascension (1), Bossier (1), Caddo (2), East Baton Rouge (2), Livingston (2), Ouachita (1) and St. Tammany (1) parishes, and three new asymptomatic cases in Caddo (1), Livingston (1) and Rapides (1) parishes.

“We are still confirming new human cases of West Nile virus in Louisiana,” said DHH State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. “It is imperative that people protect themselves and their children from being bitten by mosquitos. That’s the only way you can be sure that you won’t become infected with West Nile virus or any other mosquito-borne diseases.”

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.