The good news is that health officials don’t expect a big increase in reported cases of the West Nile virus as a result of Hurricane Isaac’s path through Louisiana.
The fear of such increases is understandable, since more south Louisiana residents have been outdoors in recent days cleaning up from the storm. That has made them more vulnerable to bites from the mosquitoes that carry the virus. The storm has also left large amounts of standing water in its wake, creating new breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
But heavy storms can also wash out mosquito breeding grounds and help break the cycle of virus transmission between birds and mosquitoes. Ultimately, Isaac could have little or no effect on West Nile cases.
That’s good news in a season when the number of West Nile virus cases is up nationally and in Louisiana from last year. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has identified 92 cases of West Nile virus in Louisiana this year, and more than half of those cases have been a more serious form of the virus that can cause brain damage and death.
We suggest that residents do what they can to eliminate standing water around their homes, including any new collections of water from Isaac. We also urge residents to apply insect repellent before tackling hurricane cleanup chores around their homes.
Health officials said they expected West Nile virus activity to peak in August, but continue through October. Residents can do their part to keep West Nile in check by taking the recommended precautions.