Baton Rouge, La. - Four new human cases of West Nile have been confirmed in Louisiana. The La. Department of Health and Hospitals says the new cases brings the total number of cases confirmed this year to 13.
This week's new infections include two cases of neuroinvasive disease, both from Ouachita Parish, and two asymptomatic cases, one each from Ouachita and Vernon parishes.
People contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. There are three ways people are infected. 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.
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.
Last year, Louisiana reported 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 can be found online at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fightthebite.
This year, Ouachita Parish has reported four cases of neuroinvasive disease and Caldwell and Calcasieu parishes each have one case of neuroinvasive disease.
The DHH recommends the following precautions:
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