Four new cases of West Nile virus reported in state

BATON ROUGE (AP) — State health officials are reporting four new West Nile cases, bringing the 2013 total so far to 13.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said Friday that this week's new infections include two cases of neuroinvasive disease, both from Ouachita Parish. That's the most serious type of the virus that can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage.

There also were two asymptomatic cases reported, including one each in Ouachita and Vernon parishes. Experts say about 90 percent of all cases reported are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop the milder viral infection called West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with neuroinvasive disease.

This year, Ouachita Parish has reported four cases of neuroinvasive disease and Caldwell and Calcasieu parishes each have one case of neuroinvasive disease.

Last year, Louisiana reported 160 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease, which is down from 2002's high of 204 neuroinvasive disease cases.

Dr. Raoult Ratard, the state epidemiologist, recommends that all residents take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes. Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus.

Ratard said residents should wear mosquito repellent containing DEET and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time. Residents also should remove standing water around the home, which is where mosquitoes breed; check and clean roof gutters routinely and drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling or trash containers so water that's collected in the bins can drain.