Webster escapes with no new instances
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) released the latest West Nile infection statistics on Friday, with 25 new cases state-wide. Webster Parish escaped without any new cases in the most recent numbers.
"Many areas of the state experienced heavy rainfall in the past week, which means people must be aware of their risk for West Nile virus (WNV) and 'Fight the Bite'," DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein said. "If you plan to spend time outdoors, put on mosquito repellant and wear protective clothing. It's also important to empty rainwater and other standing water around your property to prevent mosquito activity near your homes."
While the risk is real, Pediatrician and Minden Medical Center emergency room physician Dr. Isaac Freeborn wants people to know the risk is small.
"You can have any number of viruses that cause the exact same symptoms," he said. "Fever, fatigue, congestion, cough, runny nose ... this is typical of most viruses."
Freeborn said emergency room personnel are unlikely to know in the short time they have contact with patients which particular virus a person may have contracted. Regardless of the virus, treatment in the emergency room is the same.
Most viruses, he said, will pass as the flu does; however, Freeborn warned that certain signs should be checked by a doctor.
"Things that you would want to be concerned about are a fever that's not controllable," he said, "Dehydration and weakness and inability to care for yourself – a rapid decline.
"If I have a fever I'm going to take some Tylenol," Freeborn continued. "If it breaks I'm going to keep working. If it comes back and it's persistent and I can't break it, if it's getting worse and now I have to take off work then it needs to be addressed."
He said people should seek medical attention if their symptoms don't respond to medication and/or progressively worsen. The problem comes, according to Freeborn, when symptoms progress.
Meningitis, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the spinal column, and encephalitis, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain, are two potentially dangerous symptoms.
However, he said if the fever responds to medication and symptoms continue to improve medical attention is unlikely necessary.
"If it's not something you can handle at home in a few days, then get it checked out," Freeborn said.
There are three classifications of West Nile infection.
The first are asymptomatic cases, which exhibit no symptoms and are often never diagnosed. These cases are most commonly discovered when someone gives blood.
Anyone could be walking around with an asymptomatic infection and never know it, Freeborn said. Asymptomatic people are not contagious and could have an advantage in case of future contact.
"Once you get a virus, you develop antibodies to it," Freeborn said. "I may have had it...and if I get it again my immune response will activate and decrease the symptoms."
The second is West Nile Fever (WNF). Those with this infection will exhibit symptoms similar to the flu. Freeborn said many of these infections may pass undiagnosed, but if symptoms don't improve and continue to worsen to seek medical attention.
The third is Neuro-Invasive Disease (NID). NID is the most dangerous because the infection is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and infect brain tissue. Most of the deaths seen in West Nile come from this variety.
"The main thing is," Freeborn said, "if it's going from cold symptoms to neck stiffness, headaches and blurry vision. Symptoms that persist with meningitis and encephalitis, those are dangerous.
"People just need to be educated there are hundreds of thousands of viruses out there that we'll get on any given basis," he continued. "West Nile just happens to be one that's talked about right now."
According to DHH, the state is seeing the most cases of West Nile infections since it's largest year in 2002. That year saw 328 total cases and 24 deaths.
So far in 2012, 305 people have been confirmed infected with one of the West Nile forms. Of those, 11 have died mostly above the age of 75.
Webster Parish has seen nine total infections 2012 so far, five NID and four WNV.
Texas has been the worst affected this year, accounting for approximately half of all reported cases and deaths.
For more information on West Nile activity in Louisiana and prevention tips, visit www.dhh. louisiana.gov/FighttheBite.