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West Nile Virus – How It Originated In La., How It Affects Those Infected And How You Can Prevent Contracting It

This past week saw another person die from the West Nile virus. According to the state Department of Health and Hospitals, the count for 2013 is now up to two – the first death in August in Rapides Parish; the second death in Ouachita Parish.

Department of Health and Hospitals State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard recently spoke about the disease on “Your Afternoon Drive Home.” Dr. Ratard says the disease came to the U.S. in 1999 in New York. In 2001, he says we had just one case in Louisiana. But in 2002, “it blew up” according to Dr. Ratard. 204 cases of the neuroinvasive disease hit Louisiana that year. He say neuroinvasive means “big brain infection.” Dr. Ratard adds:

But it not only causes brain infection, it can also cause mild fever or most of the people, 90% of the people, they get infected by the mosquito, the virus is in their body, lasts a few days…and the virus goes away.

Dr. Ratard says only 1 percent of the people infected by West Nile virus get the most serious kind. He also points out the older you are, the higher the chance that West Nile can be more serious for you.

Dr. Ratard says symptoms you need to take note of, whether it pertains to you or your friends/family, especially after being around mosquitoes, are a quick onset of the flu, signs of meningitis like stiff neck and lights bothering you. “And you are not going to feel like yourself,” says Dr. Ratard. “We call that the outer-mental status. You get up in the morning and for a few seconds you have to wake up, but you are like that all day.”

Fortunately, this year we have 24 neuroinvasive cases, far less than the 160 cases we had in 2012. The reasoning behind the difference in numbers is very simple, according to Dr. Ratard. “Mild spring – low West Nile season. Warm spring – high West Nile season.”

This doesn’t mean we should let our guards down, however. Dr. Ratard recommends three things we should do to protect ourselves against contracting the virus:

Number One: You don’t invite these mosquitoes inside your house. Some of these mosquitoes prefer to bite late at night – 10:00 and even later. So you make sure your house is well mosquito-proofed: screens on the windows, doors closed, maybe screens on the doors that can open…screens also in the attic.

Number Two: Don’t invite mosquitoes into your yard. Front yard. Back yard. Another type of mosquito that bites sometimes in the daytime likes to lay eggs in a small container, like in a flower pot or any small containers that contain are full of water…These are the mosquitoes that will give you the disease.

Number Three: Don’t invite them on your skin. If it’s late and if it’s cool, maybe you wear long pants, long sleeves. If it’s in the middle of the day and the mosquitoes are biting, then you wear mosquito repellent. And remember, if you sweat a lot, the mosquito repellant won’t stay.

To listen to Dr. Raoult Ratard’s interview on “Your Afternoon Drive Home,” CLICK BELOW:

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