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Health Officials Urge Residents to Continue to “Fight the Bite” as More West Nile Cases Are Reported

Friday, September 28, 2012  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail: dhhinfo@la.gov

Baton Rouge —State health officials today confirmed 29 new West Nile virus cases and no new deaths, and reminded Louisiana residents to continue taking precautions against mosquito bites so they can lower their risk of infection. Louisiana is seeing the highest number of reported West Nile infections in several years, with 280 cases and 11 deaths from the disease thus far in 2012.

"While your calendar may say it's fall, our weather is still hot and humid - perfect for mosquitos, so people are still at risk for West Nile virus," said Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "People should continue to Fight the Bite to protect themselves and their families from this disease. Wear repellant and protective clothing if you are going outdoors, and remember to empty standing water around your homes to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and swarming."

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 11 new neuroinvasive disease cases reported this week, from Caddo (1), DeSoto (1), East Baton Rouge (1), East Feliciana (1), Grant (1), Jefferson (2), Orleans (1), Rapides (1), St. Martin (1) and Tangipahoa (1) parishes.

There are 15 new West Nile Fever cases, from Caddo (3), Calcasieu (2), East Baton Rouge (2), Lafayette (1), Morehouse (1), Orleans (2), Terrebonne (1), Webster (1), West Feliciana (1) and West Baton Rouge (1) parishes.

There are three new asymptomatic cases reported this week, from East Carroll (1), Iberville (1) and St. Tammany (1) parishes.

DHH issues a weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report that details cases detected thus far by parish, which is published here.

The most active year for West Nile cases in Louisiana was 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases 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.

"We've had more West Nile cases this year than we have had since 2005, and in this week's report, we saw seven parishes reporting their first case of West Nile this year," Greenstein said. "Also, physicians have reported to us that more people are coming to them concerned about West Nile and asking to be screened for this disease. While we are pleased to see people have increased awareness of West Nile activity, we want them to be equally conscientious about taking precautions against this virus."

Fight the Bite

Local mosquito control partners and abatement districts remain vigilant in keeping the population of infected mosquitos under control, but everyone has a personal responsibility to avoid mosquito bites.

Health officials recommend:

  • If you will be outside, you should wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than 2 months. CDC recommends that you always follow the recommendations appearing on the product label when using repellent.
  • People should be especially vigilant if they are outside at dawn and dusk. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile are most active at that time. But, people should take precautions against mosquitoes if they are outside at any time of day.
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin.
  • To apply repellent to your face, spray on your hands and then rub on your face.
  • Adults should always apply repellent to children.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time.
  • Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
  • Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors, and that all screens are free of holes.

Another effective way to prevent mosquito bites is to drain stagnant water from around homes and property to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and swarming:

  • Dispose of tin cans, ceramic pots and other unnecessary containers that have accumulated on your property. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools or buckets that could collect water.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. Drainage holes that are located on the container sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters yearly. They are often overlooked, but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. An unattended swimming pool can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.

For more information on West Nile activity in Louisiana and prevention tips, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov/FighttheBite.