Louisiana reports first human West Nile virus cases for 2019

Updated: Aug. 20, 2019 at 6:08 PM CDT
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SLIDELL, La. (WVUE) - Three months after Mosquito Abatement reported the first West Nile-carrying mosquitoes in Louisiana, the Department of Health is reporting the state’s first human cases of the year.

According to the Department of Health, there have been five reported cases of neuro-invasive West Nile virus, which is the most severe.

Two of those cases were reported in Washington Parish and one case each in St. Tammany, East Baton Rouge, and Livingston Parishes.

There were also two cases of West Nile fever reported, and two asymptomatic cases reported.

The neuro-invasive West Nile disease infects the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage. But, it does impact those primarily with lowered immune systems and who are 60 years of age and older.

Infectious disease researchers say unfortunately there’s not an anti viral therapy to treat the neuro-invasive West Nile virus, but it is the most rare of type of the disease.

In fact, Dr. Fred Lopez, an infectious diseases doctor for LSU Health, most people who do have West Nile virus don’t even know it or present any symptoms.

“If you’re asymptomic, you’ll never know," Lopez said. “And who knows how many people have been infected with this virus, but have never been tested for it."

People who are asymptomatic and are found to have West Nile virus are generally discovered because they donate blood, or some other routine medical test.

In fact, two of this year's asymptomatic cases were found because the person donated blood.

Although though in Louisiana summers, experts say the best way to keep yourself safe from infection is by preventing bug bites, by steps like addressing standing water around your home and wearing bug spray and long sleeves and pants.

West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease - This is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage.

West Nile Fever – A milder viral infection in which people experience flu-like symptoms.

Asymptomatic – 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. In comparison, the department reported 53 West Nile virus cases at this time last year.

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