JEFFERSON PARISH, La. - National and state health officials are increasingly concerned about the growing number of West Nile virus cases being reported across America, including in Louisiana. More illnesses from the virus have been reported in 2012 than any year since 2004.
The virus is spread to people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes.
The Centers for Disease Control reported West Nile virus has been found in 42 states in 2012, with 241 cases reported and four deaths recorded. There has been one death in Tangipahoa Parish, one in Mississippi and one in Texas.
New Orleans had at least one confirmed human case, the first since 2008. Other cases have been reported in River Ridge, St. Tammany Parish and Terrebonne Parish. Two samples tested positive for West Nile in St. Bernard Parish.
Area mosquito control agencies have been reporting a busy pest season since the spring and state officials are worried about the growing number of cases.
The state health department reported 19 new cases, bringing the total number of West Nile cases to 33.
Mosquito control agencies are conducting extra spraying using aircraft and trucks on the ground. Even as early as March, they asked residents to get involved.
"Certainly any resident can help us help them, and they can do this by emptying containers in their yard. Anything as small as a bottle-cap of water could potentially breed mosquitoes," said Steve Pavlovich of Mosquito Control Services on March 19.
Doctors are urging people to take steps to prevent infections:
- Use insect repellents outside. Adults should make sure it contains 20 to 30 percent DEET. Children's repellant should contain no more than 10 percent DEET.
- Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk, the most active hours for mosquitoes.
- Avoid scented perfumes, colognes and shower gels.