Louisiana reports 45 new West Nile cases, three deaths

Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed 53 new human cases of West Nile virus this week, bringing the state's total number of cases for 2012 to 145.

The 145 cases mark the highest number of cases seen in the state in the past several years.

The state also confirmed three deaths from West Nile this week, for a total of nine reported deaths from the disease in the state this year.

"West Nile has been present in Louisiana every year since 2002, and if you can be bitten by a mosquito, you can get this disease," DHH Office of Public Health Assistant Secretary J.T. Lane said. "But, this is an easy illness to avoid - if you know you'll be outside, take a few minutes to apply repellant. We want people to be especially mindful of this because we are just getting to the time of year when people are spending more time outside tailgating, going to football games and having cookouts. Be aware of West Nile, and do what you need to do to protect yourself."

State health officials have warned the public to remain vigilant in avoiding mosquito bites, which is how West Nile virus is contracted.

The virus infects three people in one of three ways - the most serious type, West Nile neuroinvasive disease infects the brain and spinal cord and can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage. West Nile Fever, the milder viral infection, causes flu-like symptoms.

The majority of those infected with West Nile will be asymptomatic.