EBR officials issue West Nile warning
City-parish officials are warning residents of East Baton Rouge Parish and surrounding areas of an increased threat of West Nile virus this summer.
Matt Yates, director of East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control, said the infection rate for Southern House Mosquitoes in the parish is 11.1 infected mosquitoes per 1,000 mosquitoes tested.
Historically, he said, an infection rate of at least 6 mosquitoes per 1,000 during July has resulted in human cases of West Nile virus in the parish.
“Having 11 (per 1,000) is almost twice that, so it indicates there’s a lot of virus in the mosquitoes right now,” Yates said. “We need to take precautions to avoid bites.”
Parishes trap and test mosquitoes every week to determine the threat of West Nile in an area, Yates said.
There have been no human cases of West Nile in the Baton Rouge area so far this year. Statewide, three West Nile cases have been identified, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals — a potentially deadly case in Vernon Parish and two asymptomatic cases in Tangipahoa Parish discovered only through blood tests.
Yates also said there have been some south Louisiana reports of horses that have contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis, another mosquito-transmitted disease.
Mosquitoes transmit both encephalitis and West Nile from birds, and can infect horses and people.
Equine encephalitis is more common in horses but can affect people, causing death or serious, irreversible central nervous system damage, Yates said.
Summer is the most problematic period for West Nile, Yates said, with human cases typically being identified between June and August.
He noted that in the fall, there is another small spike in cases related to hunting activities.
The No. 1 tip for residents, Yates said, is to get rid of standing water around the home.
“What we try to encourage, is that every time we take trash out to the curb, look to see if there’s anything holding water,” he said.
He said if residents collect rainwater, they should put a screen over it.
Other tips include avoiding outside activity around dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors, applying insect repellents and keeping mosquitoes out of the home by repairing torn window screens and eliminating cracks around doors and windows.
About 90 percent of West Nile cases are asymptomatic, according to DHH, but 10 percent of those infected will develop West Nile fever. Less frequently, a person will contract the neuroinvasive form of West Nile, which is considered deadly.
Residents who are 65 years old or older are at higher risk for complications.