BATON ROUGE, La.—The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has reported the state's first case of West Nile virus in a human in 2013. The case was confirmed July 22nd in Caldwell Parish and was determined to be a neuroinvasive disease.
Health officials characterize West Nile infections three ways: neuroinvasive, West Nile fever and asymptomatic. A neuroinvasive disease illness is caused by West Nile virus attacking the nerve cells. In older people, it may be very severe and could result in brain damage or death. West Nile fever is less severe, with most people only suffering mild, flu-like symptoms. Asymptomatic individuals were never ill and were only discovered to have the West Nile virus in their blood when blood work was done for some other reason, such as blood donation.
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.
Dr. Raoult Ratard, State Epidemiologist, recommends that all citizens take precautions to protect themselves.
"Louisiana residents can take some simple steps to protect themselves, their families and their homes from mosquitos, which spread West Nile virus to humans when they bite," Dr. Ratard said. "You should protect yourself by wearing mosquito repellant and covering your skin. You can also protect your home and those around you by eliminating standing water around your home so that mosquitos do not have a place to breed."
"It is a little late in the summer for Louisiana to see its first human case of West Nile Virus" Dr. Ratard said. "This could be related to Louisiana having a cooler Spring, which meant mosquitoes did not breed as early in the year."
Last year, Louisiana saw 160 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. DHH has been tracking West Nile Virus for more than a decade, and statistics about its occurrence in Louisiana can be found online at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fightthebite.
Protecting Your Home