DHH confirms first death from West Nile in Louisiana is in Caddo - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

DHH confirms first death from West Nile in Louisiana is in Caddo Parish

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Louisiana health officials have confirmed the first death from West Nile virus in the state this year, and it was in Caddo Parish. 

According to Dr. Martha Whyte, Regional Medical Director for OPH Region 7, the case involves a patient who was between 60 and 74 years of age. It's one of 4 cases confirmed in Caddo this week. The new cases will be included Friday in the weekly West Nile virus surveillance report released weekly by the state. 

"There are 2 neuroinvasive cases and one with just ever, the West Nile fever," Dr. Whyte says. "90 percent of people who get West Nile don't even know they have it. And then, of the other 10 percent, by far the majority is just the fever and so they feel a little ill, not a severe disease at all. And then there's a very small percentage that will get the neuroinvasive disease, and that's like a meningitis-type syndrome, and then there's a very small percentage of those that will actually die from West Nile. Again, 90 percent of us won't even know we had it."

Region 7 encompasses Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, De Soto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine and Webster parishes.

DHH spokesperson Ken Pastorick also points out that, "Just because a person may have died in Caddo Parish doesn't mean they got it in Caddo Parish. They could have been in Natchitoches fishing on the Cane River and got a mosquito bite. Could have got it from there and they come home and they die here."

If it seems like there haven't been as many cases so far this year as there have been in previous years by this time, Dr. Whyte says West Nile season can fluctuate similar to the way flu season does, and people don't need to be particularly concerned. "No. I want people to realize, and I tell people every time I talk about West Nile, that it's kind of like the flu. It's going to come every year. It's not going away. So don't be surprised when we hear about cases every year. Just make sure to do the things that you can do to protect yourself from mosquitoes. There's a lot of illness that you can get from mosquitos, and this is just one of them." 

"What you have to be conscientious of is that mosquitos are everywhere," adds Pastorick. "Mosquitos are present, the virus is out there, and different people react to the virus in different ways. I may get bitten and not show any symptoms and not find out about it until I donate blood or have bloodwork. You may get bit by the same mosquito and get deathly ill and have neuroinvasive disease and die. It's all individual in how it works."

DHH reported the state's first human cases of West Nile virus of 2014 in Livingston Parish on July 8. The three cases found there were all asymptomatic, meaning the individuals did not know they were infected, and only found out because they were donating blood or having blood work done.

The state relies on blood tests to confirm the virus, and they say these are the only diagnosed cases right now that are confirmed.

According to DHH, Louisiana saw 34 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state last year, which is down from 2002's high of 204 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease.

Copyright 2014 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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