First case of neuroinvasive West Nile Virus reported

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The first case of West Nile Virus in Louisiana this year has been diagnosed in Caldwell Parish.

The Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed the case Monday was a neuroinvasive disease.

Health officials classify West Nile infections in three ways: neuroinvasive, fever and asymptomatic.

The neuroinvasive illness is caused by the virus attacking nerve cells.  In older patients, it can cause brain damage or death.  Fever is less severe, with most people only suffering flu-like symptoms.  Asymptomatic individuals have no symptoms and only discover they have the disease when blood work is done for other reasons.

DHH says about 90 percent of cases are asymptomatic, about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever, and a very small percentage will develop the neuroinvasive disease.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard recommends all citizens protect themselves.

"Louisiana residents can take some simple steps to protect themselves, their families and their homes from mosquitos, which spread West Nile virus to humans when they bite," Dr. Ratard said. "You should protect yourself by wearing mosquito repellant and covering your skin. You can also protect your home and those around you by eliminating standing water around your home so that mosquitos do not have a place to breed."

Last year, there were 160 reported cases of the neuroinvasive disease in the state.

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