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ST. BERNARD PARISH The state's first human case in 2012 of West Nile Virus was found on Thursday in St. Bernard Parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

The individual was asymptomatic, meaning there were no signs of illness. The disease was only discovered in the patient's blood when blood work was done for some other reason.

'You have to be concerned,' St. Bernard President David Peralta said. 'It can be a deadly disease and we know it.'

There are two other ways the disease is characterized. The first is neuroinvasive, which is severe and typically results in the swelling of the brain or spinal cord. This can result in brain damage or death. The second is West Nile fever, which is less severe and most people suffer flu-like symptoms.

About 90 percent of cases are asymptomatic, about 10 percent develop West Nile fever and only a very small number of individuals develop neuroinvasive symptoms.

'No matter what time of year it is, and no matter how active the season, it is important for residents to take preventive steps to control the mosquito population near and around homes and play areas, and try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,' said state epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard.

Assistant state health officer Dr. Takeisha Charles Davis aid adults can wear mosquito repellant with 20- to 30-percent DEET in it, while children should wear repellant with only 10 percent DEEt.

She also had another suggestion.

'If we're going to be outside for long periods of time like we like to do in the summer and festivals, then we should wear long sleeves and pants,' Charles Davis said. 'That's tough to do for people but when you think about protecting yourself from a serious disease, it's something simple that you can do.'

Tips on how to protect yourself:

  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin.
  • To apply repellent to your face, spray on your hands and then rub on your face.
  • Adults should always apply repellent to children.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time.
  • Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
  • Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors, and that all screens are free of holes.

Tips on controlling the mosquito population

  • 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. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools or buckets that could collect water.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
  • Drainage holes that are located on the container sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters yearly. They are often overlooked, but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family that goes on vacation for 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.
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