State Health Department warns of severe West Nile Virus cases

State Health Department warns of severe West Nile Virus cases

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The State Health Department says three cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease were found in St. Tammany, Livingston and DeSoto parishes.

"That can be meningitis, which is a milder form of the neuroinvasive disease, encephalitis where you actually have brain involvement, and in rare cases you can get paralysis," Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Mike Hill said.

This disease infects the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to death and brain damage, but Hill says 80 percent of people are asymptomatic.

"A lot of people have had the virus and don't even know it. The good news is once you've had the virus, it's very unlikely that you're going to get re-infected. Your immune system should, it lets you have antibodies to the virus," Hill said.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard says out of 100 people that get infected with West Nile Virus, around ten people may get a mild fever, while one out of the 100 may get the serious neuroinvasve disease.

He says older people are more at risk.

"As you get very old, 60, 70, 80 years old, the blood brain barrier does not work very well, and you have more chances of the virus getting into the brain," Ratard said.

Those with West Nile Fever experience flu-like symptoms.

"Usually it's between the end of June, mid-July, sometimes late in August. It depends if the spring was very hot and there was a lot going on there on the trees, and then when they come down we see the first cases," Ratard said.

During these peak summer months, doctors say there are simple things you can do to protect yourself.

"If you're outside, to wear long-sleeves, long pants, or if you're going to be out by a pool and that's not practical, to use insect repellant, and we recommend insect repellent that has DEET," Hill said.

Doctors recommend going to the CDC website to learn more about prevention methods, especially with young children who can't use insect repellent.

Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.