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Sunday, March 24, 2019

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DHH urges residents to prepare for West Nile virus

DHH urges residents to prepare for West Nile virus

Health Department suggests removal of standing water and other tips to protect your home and family

Baton Rouge, La—As summer quickly approaches, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) wants to remind residents to take the necessary precautions and protect yourself and your family from West Nile.
Louisiana has seen a lot of rain this April, so one of the most important steps you can take now is to check around your home for standing water.

"All this seasonal heavy rain leads to standing water in small containers around the home, which serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile," said DHH State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. "It's important to check for standing water in buckets, swimming pool covers and anywhere else that could cause a problem."

Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. When people are infected with West Nile, the virus will affect them in one of three ways. West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage. The milder viral infection is West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms.

The majority of people who contract West Nile will be asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms. These cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.

About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease.

Residents who are at least 65 years old are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.

In 2014, Louisiana reported 61 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state.

Dr. Ratard recommends that all residents take the following precautions:
• If you will be outside, wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for extended periods of time.
• Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
• Make sure your house has tight-fitting windows and doors and that all screens are free of holes.
• Reduce the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around your home, which is where mosquitoes breed
• Routinely clean roof gutters, which 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 left untended by a family 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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