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Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

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It Might be Fall, but Residents Still Need to Fight the Bite

Health Department Urges Prevention as More West Nile Cases Reported

Friday, October 5, 2012  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail: dhhinfo@la.gov

BATON ROUGE—Even though the fall season is under way, state health officials remind Louisiana residents that West Nile virus remains a threat, and urges everyone to protect their health by avoiding mosquito bites. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals today confirmed 25 new West Nile virus cases. No West Nile deaths occurred this week. Louisiana is experiencing the most West Nile cases since its 2002 outbreak year, with 305 cases and 11 deaths from the disease reported thus far in 2012.

"We're still having warm weather, and many areas of the state experienced heavy rainfall in the past week, which means people must be aware of their risk for West Nile virus and 'Fight the Bite'," said DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "If you plan to spend time outdoors, put on mosquito repellant and wear protective clothing. It's also important to empty rainwater and other standing water around your property to prevent mosquito activity near your homes."

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.

There are seven new neuroinvasive disease cases reported this week, from Ascension (1), Caddo (2), East Baton Rouge (1), Franklin (1), Grant (1) and Morehouse (1) parishes.

There are 18 new West Nile Fever cases, from Ascension (1), Bossier (1), Caddo (5), Calcasieu (1), East Baton Rouge (2), East Feliciana (2), Franklin (1), Jefferson (1), Livingston (1), St. Tammany (2) and Tangipahoa (1) parishes.

There are no new asymptomatic cases reported this week.

DHH issues a weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report that details cases detected thus far by parish, which is published here.

The most active year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases and 24 deaths. For 10 years, state health officials have conducted robust surveillance year-round, which includes working with doctors, hospitals and health care providers around the state to track human cases and reminding people to be vigilant in avoiding mosquito bites.

Fight the Bite

Local mosquito control partners and abatement districts remain vigilant in keeping the population of infected mosquitos under control, but everyone has a personal responsibility to avoid mosquito bites.

Health officials recommend:

  • If you will be outside, you should wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than 2 months. CDC recommends that you always follow the recommendations appearing on the product label when using repellent.
  • People should be especially vigilant if they are outside at dawn and dusk. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile are most active at that time. But, people should take precautions against mosquitoes if they are outside at any time of day.
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin.
  • To apply repellent to your face, spray on your hands and then rub on your face.
  • Adults should always apply repellent to children.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time.
  • Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
  • Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors, and that all screens are free of holes.

Another effective way to prevent mosquito bites is to drain stagnant water from around homes and property to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and swarming:

  • Dispose of tin cans, ceramic pots and other unnecessary containers that have accumulated on your property. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools or buckets that could collect water.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. Drainage holes that are located on the container sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters yearly. They are often overlooked, but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. An unattended swimming pool can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.

For more information on West Nile activity in Louisiana and prevention tips, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov/FighttheBite.