West Nile Virus detected in mosquitoes in East Baton Rouge Parish; how to protect yourself
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Many people will celebrate the Fourth of July outside over the weekend and the Louisiana Department of Health wants them to make sure they are safe from mosquitoes that may contain the West Nile Virus.
“There were quite a high number of positive pools that were being reported earlier in the year than we usually see, and so we didn’t want to wait until the actual our official reports started being disseminated,” said Theresa Sokol with LDH. “We wanted to make sure that the citizens of Louisiana had this information so that they could really start taking measures to protect themselves.”
Sokol, a state epidemiologist, said it’s important to use insect repellant and wear long pants and sleeves if you can.
“I would just say that no matter where you live in the state, you are potentially at risk for transmission of West Nile from a mosquito because we’re really seeing these positive pools throughout the state,” explained Sokol.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been found in areas like Baker, Highland Road, and Perkins Road.
Randy Vaeth said they are paying special attention to those areas.
“We’re doing additional truck spraying we’ve also had our larvicide trucks that spray the roadside ditches to control the house mosquito,” said Vaeth. “We’ve had them in those areas repeatedly.”
He added this is just the beginning of mosquito season here.
“It’s going to get even worse as we proceed into July and August. The calendar is your best predictor of West Nile activity. Unfortunately, in the hotter this part of the summer, we’re going to see more mosquitoes and then we’ll see human cases also,” he noted.
Vaeth said you need to make sure you check anything that can hold water in your yard and make sure you empty it out to help decrease mosquitoes.
Information provided by the Louisiana Department of Health:
The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has received reports of West Nile virus present in more than 175 mosquito pools this year, a number much higher than last year at this time, when 13 pools tested positive.
The high number of positive cases in the pool samples means there is a greater risk of West Nile virus spreading to humans, though no human cases of West Nile virus have been reported this year so far. The Office of Public health is urging the public to take protective measures against mosquito bites.
West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause illness in people and animals. While 80% of human cases are asymptomatic, many people can develop West Nile Fever. Symptoms of West Nile Fever, which is a flu-like illness, can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, or rashes.
A small percentage of people sickened by West Nile Virus can develop a severe form of infection called West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease or West Nile Encephalitis, which can result in hospitalization and death. Symptoms can include high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, numbness, coma, and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks and carry the risk of death or permanent brain damage.
While anyone is at risk of developing severe disease, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and those who are over 60 years of age are at a greater risk. The number of West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease cases fluctuates each year due to many environmental factors and the weather, with previous case counts in Louisiana ranging between 4 and 204 cases each year.
“Now is the time to start protecting yourself from mosquito bites and eliminating mosquito breeding sites around your home,” said LDH State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter. “We’re getting early warning signs from our Mosquito Abatement District samples across the state that West Nile Virus could result in higher case counts among humans this summer.”
There are many ways to protect yourself from mosquito bites:
- 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.
You should also take measures to protect 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 as 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 problem mosquito areas.
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