NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A blood test found the state's first human case of West Nile virus this year in a St. Bernard Parish resident who didn't have any symptoms, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said Friday.
Ninety percent of all people infected with the virus never get sick from it. Those cases are found only if the infected person donates blood or has blood tested for another reason. About 10 percent will develop a flu-like fever and a very few will have dangerous infections of the nervous system.
"West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites," said Dr. Raoult Ratard, the state epidemiologist. "No matter what time of year it is, and no matter how active the season, it is important for residents to take preventive steps to control the mosquito population near and around homes and play areas, and try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes."
That means using mosquito repellant, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and avoiding perfumes and colognes if you're going to be outdoors for a while. Indoors, it means making sure windows and doors fit tightly and screens don't have any holes. In your yard, make sure there's no standing water where mosquitoes could breed — even something as small as a flowerpot saucer.
Last year, Louisiana recorded 12 cases of West Nile virus, the fewest since tracking began in 2002. The first year was the worst, with 328 cases.