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BATON ROUGE, LA (KPLC) -
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has confirmed a new West Nile case in Calcasieu Parish as well as two deaths statewide from the neuroinvasive disease (NID), the most serious of the virus, officials say.
The deaths are reportedly the state's first since 2008 when one person died of the disease.
Officials say the Calcasieu case is also a neuroinvasive one.
According to a Friday news release from DHH, since there has been a recent sharp increase in NID cases, virus deaths will now be a part of the department's weekly surveillance report.
"West Nile Virus is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly," said Dr. Ratard DHH State Epidemiologist. "We know from the past 10 years of surveillance that this disease has reached every corner of the state, meaning people are at risk for West Nile regardless of whether there are cases and deaths in your parish. People should own their own health and take responsibility to make all the necessary precautions that protect you and your loved ones from mosquito bites."
In all, 21 new West Nile infection cases have been reported statewide, bringing this year's total to 53.
This week's new infections include 13 cases of the more serious NID. The new NID cases, in addition to the Calcasieu one, were reported from East Baton Rouge, Natchitoches, Orleans, Rapides, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. There were also new West Nile Fever (WNF) cases in Jefferson, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes and new asymptomatic cases in East Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee and Lincoln parishes.
Health officials characterize West Nile infections three ways: NID, WNF
and asymptomatic. A NID illness is severe and typically results in a
swelling of the brain or spinal cord. People with this illness are at
risk of brain damage or death. WNF is less severe, with most people only
suffering mild, flu-like symptoms. Asymptomatic individuals were never
ill and were only discovered to have the West Nile virus in their blood
when blood work was done for some other reason, such as blood donation.