Louisiana (KETK) — The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has confirmed the state's fourth West Nile virus death this year.
Two of the deaths come from Oachita Parish. The state's health department is also confirming four new West Nile cases this week, bringing the year's total cases to 55.
The new infections include two cases of neuroinvasive disease in Acadia and Rapides Parish, and two cases of West Nile fever in Bossier and Caddo Parish.
Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. When people are infected with West Nile, the virus will affect in one of three ways.
1. West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, it infects the brain and spinal cord. This type can lead to death, paralysis, and brain damage.
2. The milder viral infection is West Nile fever. This is when people experience flu-like symptoms.
3. The majority of people that will contract West Nile will be asymptomatic. This means that the person will show no symptoms. These cases are normally detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests. About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic.
Ten percent will develop West Nile Fever, and only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease.
Residents who are 65 years old and older are at a higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.
Last year, Louisiana reported 160 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state. This is down from 2002's high of 204 cases.
Protecting yourself is the first step in prevention of West Nile.
If you are outside, you should wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET. Apply the repellent on exposed skin and clothing. You can also wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time, avoid perfumes and colognes as well.
Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors and that all screens are free of holes.
You can also 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. Be sure to 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, check and clean roof gutters routinely as well.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family 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.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov .