LOUISIANA — The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals uncovered 15 new West Nile cases this week, and reports one death from the disease. The State is experiencing its worst West Nile outbreak in a decade this year, and health care providers continue identifying new cases into the fall season.
"Not only do we continue to find more cases, this week, we have three parishes reporting their first human cases of West Nile for the year," said DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "Clearly, this virus remains a threat, and it's important to protect your health and avoid mosquito bites even as the weather gets colder and drier."
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.
There are six new neuroinvasive disease cases reported this week, from Jefferson (1), Orleans (2), Tangipahoa (1) and Rapides (2) parishes. Five of these are newly identified cases, and one is a previously reported case that progressed into neuroinvasive disease.
There are 10 new West Nile fever cases reported this week, from Assumption (1), Catahoula (1), East Baton Rouge (2), Ouachita (1), Rapides (2), St. Landry (1) and Winn (2) parishes.
No new asymptomatic cases were reported this week.
Louisiana has had 371 West Nile cases, of which 152 are neuroinvasive disease, and 16 deaths, all of which occurred within two weeks of disease onset, thus far in 2012.
DHH issues a weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report that details cases detected thus far by parish, which is published here.
West Nile virus has been present in Louisiana since 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases, of which 204 were neuroinvasive disease, and 24 deaths. For 10 years, state health officials have conducted robust surveillance year-round, which includes working with doctors, hospitals and health care providers around the state to track human cases and reminding people to be vigilant in avoiding mosquito bites.