West Nile deaths jump to 10 in Louisiana

Baton Rouge, La. - State health officials confirmed 31 new cases of West Nile virus, bringing the total number of people affected by the virus to 176.  The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says another person has died from the disease, bringing the death toll to 10.

State health officials caution residents that these reported cases are not related to Hurricane Isaac because there is a two-week period between when people are infected with West Nile through mosquito bites and when symptoms appear. This week's new cases were infected before the hurricane.

"During a hurricane, floodwater washes out stagnant water and disrupts mosquito breeding. It's the coming weeks that pose a health threat, as standing water collects and more people head outside to clean up after the storm," said DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "Also, as people resume their daily activities and the weather gets cooler, they will start spending more time outside for tailgating, football games and cookouts. This makes them more at risk for mosquito bites and West Nile. Take the steps to protect yourself and your family from this disease."

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.

Of the new West Nile cases reported this week, 10 have neuroinvasive disease, from Ascension (1), Bossier (1), Caddo (2), East Baton Rouge (2), Jefferson (1), Madison (1), Rapides (1) and Webster (1) parishes; 16 have West Nile Fever, from Ascension (1), Bossier (1), Caddo (4), Calcasieu (4), East Baton Rouge (4), Iberville (1) and Webster (1) parishes; and five have asymptomatic cases, from Caddo (2), Catahoula (1), Jefferson (1) and West Baton Rouge (1) parishes.

The most active year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases and 24 deaths.