BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Twenty-four new cases of West Nile virus infections have been reported by the state, bringing to 92 cases so far this year in Louisiana.
The Department of Health and Hospitals said Friday that more than half of the total - 47 - are West Nile neuro-invasive disease, the more serious form of the virus that infects the brain and spinal cord and can cause brain damage or death.
DHH's weekly report says no additional deaths have occurred, though six people this year have died after contracting the virus.
The 24 new infections include 10 cases of neuro-invasive disease, with four being reported in Caddo Parish and one each reported from DeSoto, Orleans, Ouachita, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Webster parishes.
There were also new cases of West Nile fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms, reported from Avoyelles (1), Bossier (3), Caddo (2), Iberville (1), Ouachita (1), Rapides (2) and St. Tammany (1) parishes. Three new asymptomatic cases, meaning the infected people had the virus but did not feel ill and only discovered the West Nile infection when they had blood work done for an unrelated reason such as blood donation, were reported from Caddo, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes.
"We continue to confirm additional cases each week, and as mosquitoes remain active, we can expect to see more," said Dr. Raoult Ratard, the state epidemiologist. "People need to take this disease seriously and follow precautions to avoid mosquito bites."
St. Tammany Parish has reported most of Louisiana's neuroinvasive disease cases so far with seven, followed by six in Caddo Parish and East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes each have five. But, infected mosquito pools that carry the virus have been detected in all parts of the state, so health officials remind residents that they must take precautions regardless of whether there are cases in their areas.
West Nile virus has been active in Louisiana since 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases and 24 deaths from the disease.