BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - West Nile Virus cases are down in Louisiana compared to last year, according to data released by the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).
At this time in 2014, there were 52 human cases statewide. So far this year, there are only 20. Two of those cases are in East Baton Rouge Parish, though both are asymptomatic, meaning there is little to no health risk.
Statewide, two have been West Nile fever while another ten have been of the dangerous neuroinvasive variety.
"When there's infection around the brain or the spinal cord, that's when you can end up dying from this disease," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, a state health officer with DHH.
The DHH divides the state up by regions when tracking human West Nile cases.
Region 2 includes East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension and Iberville parishes. In that region, there were two neuroinvasive cases, one case of West Nile fever, and four asymptomatic cases.
Region 3 includes St. Mary, St. James, St. John, St. Charles, Assumption, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. No cases of West Nile were found in this region.
Region 9 includes St. Helena, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Tammany parishes. In that region, there was one neuroinvasive case and one case of West Nile fever.
The number of infected mosquitoes is also lower this year in East Baton Rouge Parish. Data from EBR Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control shows that only six samples out of hundreds of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile.
"It's a fraction of the number of positive pools we'd get last years. We'd get six in one day in 2014 and 2012, so this year we're way off those numbers," said Randy Vaeth, assistant director of the abatement team.
This past week, there were no positive tests at all.
"We're very happy this time of year, when the virus is most normally active, that we did not have anything happening West Nile wise," Vaeth said.
Other parishes did not fare as well last week. In West Baton Rouge, 10 samples tested positive. In Tangipahoa, six samples tested positive.
Still, despite the low number of positive human and mosquito cases, officials recommend that people remain vigilant, especially during late-summer and early fall months when many Louisiana families spend more time outside on weekends and at football games.
"We have seen human cases develop in the latter part of the year in the fall," said Vaeth. "We're not going to let down our guard until we see January temperatures below freezing."
"The elderly, people over 65, whose immune is not working well, if they get a small dose of virus, they're at risk of getting more serious infection," Guidry said.
Some tips to keep safe include:
- Wearing long sleeves
- Wearing light colors
- Not going outside in the morning and early evening, when mosquitoes are most active
- Use bug spray
DHH recommends the repellant contain DEET to most effectively fight off the insects. Repellant for children should contain no more than 30 percent DEET, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Another tip is eliminate standing water.
"Wherever they find water, they can breed and increase their population," Guidry said.
While West Nile-carrying populations of mosquitoes have not been found, Vaeth said the number of floodwater mosquitoes is on the rise due in large part to recent rain storms after a relatively dry summer.
Those mosquitoes do not carry West Nile, although they do bite.