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Louisiana health officials say West Nile virus is high across the state

<i>WDSU</i><br/>Raw sewage near homes could attract mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus.
Raw sewage near homes could attract mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus.

By WDSU Staff

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    NEW ORLEANS (WDSU) — The Louisiana Department of Health is urging people to take precautions outside after new data revealed the state has the fourth-highest rate of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the country.

The data comes from a recent publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state Department of Health said, to date, Louisiana is reporting a total of 33 neuroinvasive disease cases in the state and three West Nile fever cases.

Louisiana has reported five deaths linked to neuroinvasive disease.

Health officials say the neuroinvasive disease cases are more than in previous years but is comparable to the 2017 and 2018 seasons, where 29 cases and 48 cases at this time were reported, respectively.

While the risk of West Nile virus infection is high throughout Louisiana, a large proportion of the reported human cases and positive mosquito pools have been located in the Northshore area, according to health officials.

Due to the high number of cases, positive pool samples and the increased risk of the West Nile virus spreading to humans, LDH is urging the public to take protective measures against mosquito bites.

“Most cases of West Nile fever go unreported, because individuals with mild fevers or flu-like illness are less likely to seek medical care or testing,” state Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said in a statement. “That said, neuroinvasive disease from West Nile virus can be a devastating condition for some, with the potential for debilitating, life-long ramifications. While we are in the height of season, I urge families across the state to take the simple steps of protecting themselves from mosquito bites and turning over any containers holding standing water around the outside of the house, which can serve as breeding sites for these mosquitos.”

The West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause illness in people and animals, according to health officials.

Tips to protect yourself against West Nile

If you will be outside, you should wear EPA-registered approved mosquito repellent and always follow product label instructions. Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing, but do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin. If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. To protect yourself from being exposed to mosquitos while indoors, make sure that windows and doors are tight-fitting and that all screens are free of holes.

Protecting your home from mosquitoes

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 that may collect water. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools, buckets, trash cans, children’s toys or anything that could collect water. Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. If a recycling container has holes on the sides, there is still room for the container to collect water for mosquitoes to breed, so holes should be added on the bottom if not already present. Check and clean roof gutters routinely. Clogged gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season. Water gardens and ornamental pools can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate. Take steps to prevent stagnation, such as adding fish or aeration. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family for a little as 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. Contact local mosquito abatement districts to report mosquito problem areas.

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