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Louisiana reporting double digit cases of West Nile infections

27th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

By David T. Baker
The Louisiana Weekly

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals reported last week that 24 new cases of human West Nile infections have been reported throughout the state.

While there have been no deaths so far resulting from the 24 new cases, six people this year have died after contracting the virus. Ninety-two West Nile virus cases thus far for 2012 have been detected—half of which are West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of the virus that infects the brain and spinal cord and can cause brain damage or death.

The 24 new infections include 10 cases of neuroinvasive disease, with four being reported in Caddo Parish and one each reported from DeSoto, Orleans, Ouachita, St. Tammany, Tanigipahoa and Web­ster parishes. There were also new cases of West Nile fever, the milder form of the virus that causes flu-like symptoms, reported from Avoyelles (1), Bossier (3), Caddo (2), Iberville (1), Ouachita (1), Rapides (2) and St. Tammany (1) parishes. Three new asymptomatic cases, meaning the infected people had the virus but did not feel ill and only discovered the West Nile infection when they had blood work done for an unrelated reason such as blood donation, were reported from Caddo, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes.

“We continue to confirm additional cases each week, and as mosquitoes remain active, we can expect to see more,” said Dr. Raoult Ratard, DHH State Epidemiologist. “Peo­ple need to take this disease seriously and follow precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

The New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board (NOMTCB) is advising residents in Orleans Parish to avoid mosquito bites by “limiting outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, using repellants containing DEET, reducing the number of mosquitoes around the home and mosquito-proofing their homes by maintaining screens on windows and doors.”

As part of the mosquito mitigation effort, the NOMTCB has implemented “an aerial and truck application program targeting the ‘southern house mosquito,’ applying larvicide to storm drains and standing water, and educating citizens through community outreach efforts,” according to a statement from Kambium Buckner, a communications manager in the Mayor’s Office of Communication.

“Given the large amount of rain recently, it is imperative for residents to remain vigilant in removing standing water by emptying containers and changing water at least weekly,” Buckner said, advising that residents be mindful of standing water in containers that cannot be removed such as bird baths and kiddie pools.

St. Tammany Parish has reported Louisiana’s most neuroinvasive disease cases so far with seven, Caddo Parish is reporting six neuroinvasive disease cases and East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes each have five neuroinvasive disease cases. But, infected mosquito pools that carry the virus have been detected in all parts of the state, so health officials remind residents that they must take precautions regardless of whether there are cases in their areas.

Most people who contract West Nile virus will have asymptomatic cases, and nearly 10 percent of all cases will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small percentage of infected people develop neuroinvasive disease, and the elderly are particularly at risk for this form of the virus. But, health officials urge individuals of every age to take precautions.

The life cycle of mosquitoes can be completed within a seven-day period, making it important to evaluate yards on a weekly basis. Remove trash and clutter, including discarded tires, buckets, tarps and any other items that could collect water. Make sure swimming pools and fountains are operational and circulating.

Orleans Parish residents are encouraged to contact the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board to treat standing water, report abandoned pools, or with any other questions or concerns, (504) 658-2400.

Protect Yourself
• 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 percent DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than two 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 dusk. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile are most active at that time.
• 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.
Reduce the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around your home, which is where mosquitoes breed:
• 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. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family that goes on vacation for a month 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.

West Nile virus has been active in Louisiana since 2002, when the state experienced 328 cases and 24 deaths from the disease. For 10 years, state health officials have conducted robust surveillance during mosquito season, which includes working with doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers around the state to track human cases and reminding people to be vigilant in avoiding mosquito bites.

The first cases of West Nile infections in Louisiana were reported in 2002 with 329 cases, 22 of which were reported in Orleans Parish. Information on infection rates is updated every Friday on the DHH website at http://www.dhh.lou­isiana.gov.

This article originally published in the August 27, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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