West Nile Virus sparks war against mosquitoes


Amy Ngo

Dead mosquitoes are examined in a lab. Mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus. Photo credit: Amy Ngo

Amy Ngo

Even though Louisiana has some of the most cases of West Nile in the nation, authorities say it is doing much better than in years past.

Ranked seventh of 50 states in total cases of the West Nile virus so far this year, Louisiana currently has seven reported cases, none of which have been found in New Orleans. As cooler weather and the fall months approach, these numbers should be celebrated, officials said.

“Right now, we are in the prime. [The mosquito breeding season] is a bell shaped curve, and we are just starting to head in the down direction. In a lot of ways, it mirrors hurricane season,” said Claudia Riegel, director of the Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board for the city.

According to reports from the Louisiana Department of Health, at this time last year, there were a total of 79 cases of the virus reported. In 2017, 39 cases were reported. With the seven cases detected this year, Riegel gave credit to the state.

“Our state actually has a great surveillance program that does test for things like West Nile virus and a variety of other viruses, too,” said Riegel.

West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Health and Wellness Ambassador for the state, Eric Griggs, M.D., said some human cases can go undetected. The virus does, however, come with symptoms.

“There may be some stiff neck, fever or headache, just a general malaise. Some may have actually had it, but for people over the age of 65 and those who are immunocompromised, then it can be an issue,” said Griggs.

Orleans Parish resident Naidja Garandson said she was aware of the virus but doesn’t know what risks come with the virus or how to keep her four-year-old safe. Even when hearing the reported low numbers this year, Garandson worries for her son’s health and safety.

“My biggest thing is just protecting my son. I know they say cases can be really bad for some mosquito bites,” said Garandson.

Though the city is attempting additional sprays throughout the year, she reminds residents that the city can’t eliminate all the mosquitoes alone. Educating residents on risks and preventative measures they can take are some of the Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board’s biggest goals for the year.

“There are a lot of measures that I think if everybody works together, we can make some strides forward on reducing the mosquito population that may be around,” Riegle said.

Griggs offered these tips to residents to protect themselves for the rest of the breeding season: “Don’t be outside between dusk and dawn. Remove standing water and any tires from your yard because mosquitoes propagate in stagnant water. Cover up and spray insect repellent. Do what you can to stay away from mosquitos.”

The Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board recommends that if there are any concerns in the area to call 311.