BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The 31 most recent West Nile infections in Louisiana included one death, bringing this year's totals to 176 reported infections and 10 deaths from the virus, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says.
These cases are not related to Hurricane Isaac because it takes up to two weeks for an infection to develop after a bite and weeks longer before it is confirmed and reported to the health department. There also was a delay in reporting because the storm closed health care facilities and pushed public health laboratory staff into hurricane response activities, officials said last week.
"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."
Louisiana, like much of the country, is seeing the highest number of West Nile cases and deaths in years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of Sept. 4, state health departments had reported 1,993 cases - the highest number reported through the first week in September since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Over 70 percent of the cases were in six states: Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan, with nearly 45 percent of the total reported from Texas.
Nine out of 10 people bitten by an infected mosquito won't have any symptoms. Those cases are typically detected when someone donates blood or has routine medical tests. Most of the people who do get ill will have a flu-like fever. But the disease can infect the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage.
Of the 31 new West Nile cases reported last week, 10 were the dangerous neuroinvasive disease: two each in Caddo and East Baton Rouge parishes, and one each in Ascension, Bossier, Jefferson, Madison, Rapides and Webster parishes.
Sixteen patients had West Nile fever: four each from Caddo, Calcasieu and East Baton Rouge parishes, and one each in Ascension, Bossier, Iberville and Webster parishes. The other five - two in Caddo and one each in Catahoula, Jefferson and West Baton Rouge parishes - did not have any symptoms.
The 176 cases include 88 classified as neuroinvasive cases and 59 of West Nile fever.
The most active year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases and 24 deaths.
The elderly and people who have weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing neuroinvasive disease, but anyone bitten by a mosquito can contract West Nile and develop neuroinvasive disease.
"We know from 10 years of tracking West Nile that this virus is in every corner of our state," Greenstein said. "Don't let your guard down. Even if you live in a parish that didn't get rain and flooding during Hurricane Isaac, you are still at risk for this disease. Everyone, regardless of their age or where they live, needs to fight the bite."