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Louisiana Flooding Breeds Cases of West Nile Virus

SEP 16, 2016 | BRIAN P. DUNLEAVY
Experts who predicted that West Nile virus would present Louisiana with its greatest infectious disease-related challenge in the aftermath of the horrific flooding in the state in August appear to have been correct.
 
On September 12, the Louisiana Department of Health (DOH) announced that there have 10 new cases of West Nile confirmed in the state since the last report was issued in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in mid-August. Through September 3, there have been a total of 24 confirmed cases of West Nile in Louisiana since the beginning of 2016. Of those, 13 are neuroinvasive disease, 9 are fever and 2 are asymptomatic, according to the DOH and CDC. No deaths due to West Nile have been reported in the state. 
 
Like Zika, West Nile is primarily a mosquito-borne infection. In the aftermath of the flooding in and around Baton Rouge, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, told ABC’s “This Week” program that Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes could appear in Louisiana because of the flooding. However, at the time, DOH officials and public health experts in the state disagreed, telling Contagion that West Nile, which has been present in the state for years, was the more viable threat. There are, in fact, 28 confirmed cases of Zika in Louisiana; however, all are travel-related and not due to bites from local mosquitoes.
 
New York, where West Nile first emerged in 2002, announced on September 12 that it had its first confirmed case of the virus.
 
Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.
 
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