OUACHITA PARISH, LA — The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has confirmed the state's second West Nile virus death this season. The death occured this week in Ouachita Parish. The state's first death was last month in Rapides Parish. DHH is reporting six new West Nile virus cases this week, bringing this year's total number of cases to 45. This week's new infections include four cases of neuroinvasive disease, with three cases from Ouachita Parish, and one case from Lafayette parish, and two cases of West Nile fever, with one case each from St. Landry and St. Martin parishes.
Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. 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.
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 about its occurrence in Louisiana can be found in DHH's weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report, found on line at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fightthebite.
This year, the state's neuroinvasive disease cases are as such, Ouachita Parish -13 cases, Lafayette Parish - six cases, Caldwell Parish - three cases, Rapides Parish - three cases, Calcasieu Parish - one case, Livingston Parish - one case, St. Tammany Parish - one case.