State health officials tell the Associated Press that the risk of contracting West Nile virus is expected to rise as water from recent flooding across south Louisiana recedes.

The year started off relatively slowly in terms of the number of cases reported to the Louisiana Department of Health. However, that's where the good news stops.

 

Fourteen cases were confirmed as of August 20, 2016, and eight of those people contracted the more serious, neuro-invasive form of the disease which causes swelling around the brain. According to the report released by DHH, anyone can get West Nile virus.

The difference is in how one reacts once it's introduced into the body.

The majority of all persons infected and immuno-competent are completely asymptomatic (80-90%). A smaller proportion of persons (10-20%) present with influenza-like illness with abrupt onset of fever. A minority of people develop a serious neurologic illness such as aseptic meningitis or encephalitis (0.2% younger than 65 years old, 2% older than age 65).

It's important to note that ALL of these confirmed cases were contracted prior to the flood. Whether they were neuro-invasive, fever, or detected through blood samples,

West Nile virus showed up in people in the following parishes between January 1 and August 20, 2016: Calcasieu, Vernon, Beauregard, Caddo, East Baton Rouge, Ouachita, Orleans, and St. Tammany.

DHH reports that it can take three to six weeks to get an accurate diagnosis of West Nile virus in whatever form and for various reasons, so it's imperative that we all do what we can to fight mosquitoes and being bitten in the first place.

  1. Eliminate standing water around your home, when possible.
  2. Clean roof gutters.
  3. Be careful if you are outdoors at dusk or dawn. That's when mosquitoes are most active.
  4.  Use mosquito repellent as directed. DHH says the most effective ones contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.
  5. Wear long pants and long sleeves. Make sure clothing is loose-fitting and the fabric is tightly woven.