Update: West Nile Virus spreading, Louisiana declares state of emergency

| 8/6/2002

The action comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared Louisiana to have one of the worst West Nile outbreaks in the virus' history. The Pelican State is hoping to get as much as $5 million in federal funds to battle the virus.

As of Aug. 2, there have been 36 cases of West Nile virus related human illness confirmed to CDC - 32 in Louisiana -- during 2002, including 2 deaths. From 1999 through 2001, there were 149 cases of West Nile virus human illness in the United States reported to CDC and confirmed, including 18 deaths.

In the United States from 1999 through Aug. 2, 2002, the virus has been documented in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The CDC warns that the virus could be a concern to anyone who works in an outdoor environment. It is spread by mosquitoes that bite infected birds and then spread it to humans. "Yet it's fairly easy to prevent," says Dr. Lyle Petersen of the CDC. "You should be concerned enough about it to do something but not have it change your whole lifestyle."

Guidelines from the CDC include spraying on DEET-containing mosquito repellent when you go outdoors. Stay away from standing water where mosquitoes can breed and try to stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Most victims get a flu-like illness, with fever, headache and muscle pains that last two or three days. But the disease can cause a potentially fatal brain inflammation - encephalitis -- that can cause death.

Anyone who knows they have been in a mosquito-infested area and then suffers a high fever, confusion, severe headache, stiff neck or sudden muscle weakness should see a doctor. There is a vaccine for horses but not for humans, nor is there any anti-viral treatment.
--Donna Carlson, staff writer