An Alexandria man has died after contracting the West Nile Virus, and health officials are urging the public to protect themselves against mosquitos. Dr. David Holcombe with the Office of Public Health says the virus is transmitted by household mosquitos that are common in Louisiana. But there are ways people can keep the pesky bugs away.
“Clean up their yards, get rid of any standing water, wear long sleeves, and use DEET or some other repellant any time they’re outside,” Holcombe said.
Seventy-one-year-old Donald Austin died last Tuesday. His family says he got sick about two weeks ago, but they thought it was the flu. Holcombe says that’s not surprising because for most people, West Nile Virus is completely asymptomatic.
“Ninety percent of people who become infected with West Nile are not even aware that they got sick. So most people are asymptomatic,” Holcombe said.
Holcombe says about nine percent of people get a low fever, and one percent get a neuro invasive disease that can be deadly. Most of the people who get the fatal illness are elderly. So far this year, 19 cases of West Nile have been reported in Louisiana. Holcombe says that could mean we’ll have a more active season this year.
“This year is starting a little early, and it’s impossible to predict but we may have a worse season this year than last,” Holcombe said.