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The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is reminding the public to take precautions against mosquito bites that can expose people to West Nile virus (WNV). During 2022, Louisiana experienced 41 West Nile neuroinvasive disease (NID) cases and seven deaths.
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 and/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.
Within the last two months, there have also been locally-acquired cases of malaria reported in the southern US, four in Florida and one in Texas. No locally acquired malaria cases have been identified in Louisiana at this time. However, competent mosquito vectors are present in the state, creating the potential for local transmission.
Malaria is a serious and potentially fatal disease. Symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, myalgias, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If not treated promptly, malaria may progress to a life-threatening stage in which mental status changes, seizures, renal failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome and coma may occur.
Tips to protect yourself against mosquitos
•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 will be outside for an extended period of time, consider a travel-size container of repellent that can easily be carried with you.
•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