Louisiana and Mississippi are leading the nation in the number of people most severely affected by the West Nile virus this year. State health departments warn residents against taking mosquitoes that spread the virus.
"Not in my house, not on my skin, not in my garden," Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana's state epidemiologist, as he repeated the state slogan for the fight against the disease Wednesday. One of the precautions is to ensure that door and window panes have no holes; wear long clothes and use mosquito repellent; and make sure the yard does not hold any stagnant water where mosquitoes could breed – even a bottle cap. As of August 21, Louisiana had 18 cases of West Nile encephalitis or meningitis out of a total of 133 national The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday on their website. Mississippi had 15 such "neuroinvasive" cases, Texas 14 and California 12.
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South Dakota had nine, Iowa seven, Nebraska six and Alabama and Pennsylvania respectively five.
Dr. Paul Byers, Mississippi's state epidemiologist, said Mississippi was "always" among the states with the highest rates of West Nile virus.
"Whether we report the disease in your county … we want everyone to take the appropriate precautions," Byers said
reports of brain and nervous system infections are more reliable indicators of the seriousness of West Nile as statistics for influenza-like West Nile fever or asymptomatic infections most commonly found in donated blood, he and Ratard said. This is because most patients are hospitalized, Ratard said. "And it's the main problem with West Nile," he added. "One in ten (with neuroinvasive West Nile virus) will die, one in ten will have permanent disabilities."
The CDC has reported eight deaths this year: two in South Dakota and one each in Louisiana, Iowa, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
CDC said 45 states and the District of Columbia have reported the virus in humans, birds or mosquitoes this year
About one in five people become ill, and the virus spreads to about one in 150 after the nervous system out to the CDC.
The diagnosis of West Nile fever depends on whether a patient even goes to the doctor and if the doctor looks for it. And most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito do not show any symptoms. They are only diagnosed when their blood is tested.
The CDC reported 98 cases of fever and 89 positive blood tests.
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Six states – Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Oregon and Utah – have only one or two cases of fever and none diagnosed in the nervous system. The only reports in New Mexico and Montana each came from a single blood test.
Ratard said 1,054 people in Louisiana had been diagnosed with the most serious form of the disease in the past 16 years. "So we probably have 100,000 to 200,000 people who have been infected in Louisiana and who are immune," said Ratard.
CDC numbers are often behind government reports. Louisiana reports that there were 31 residents with dangerous nervous system infections, including two deaths and 13 cases of West Nile fever. Mississippi reported 10 cases of fever in addition to 15 nervous system infections, said Byers.
Nation-to-state and year-to-year variations depend on various local factors, Ratard said.
He noted that although Louisiana sees more cases this year than last, numbers are still clearly from the worst years, as in 2002 and 2012. Louisiana had 142 nervous system infections from this week in 2002, out of a total of 204 for the year. In 2012 there were 95 such cases, of 160 for the year 2012.
In 2002 and 2012 there were nearly 3000 cases of encephalitis and meningitis caused by the virus.