Louisiana Flooding: West Nile, Zika Virus Pose Threat In New Cases

Due to “1,000-year” rain in two days, the Louisiana flooding is causing even more problems. Both the West Nile virus and the Zika virus pose as big threats to the state right now.

Some of the backyards, streets, and parking lots are starting to dry out after the historic flooding that damaged over 40,000 homes over the southern part of the state. However, all the large areas of water can increase the risk for mosquito-born illnesses, according to NOLA.com. The media has been focused on the Zika virus, which poses a great risk for pregnant women, but there is an even greater threat for the West Nile virus, according to health experts.

West Nile Virus
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“The severe flooding in the middle part of the state is going to increase our risk for West Nile,” Frank Welch, the Louisiana Department of Health’s director of community preparedness and leader of the state’s Zika response, told NOLA.com.

However, the Louisiana flooding will cut down the mosquito population, making it less likely for someone to contract the West Nile, Zika, or any other mosquito-borne illness since mosquitos can’t survive in moving bodies of water.

“Natural disasters in the continental United States have rarely been accompanied by outbreaks of viruses spread by mosquitoes. Flooding immediately washes away existing mosquito larvae populations,” Benjamin Haynes, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previously said in a written statement.

Zika is not something that’s a big concern like West Nile since there have only been 23 cases of people who have traveled outside of the U.S. to Central and South America. Unlike in Florida, a Louisiana resident has not contracted the Zika virus from a local mosquito.

zika virus
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“We do not expect to see an increase in Zika virus as a result of flooding in Louisiana,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in a recent statement.

The West Nile virus, on the other hand, is still a concern in the flooded areas. According to a study published in 2007 by Tulane University, citizens were twice as likely to contract the virus in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi that were affected by Hurricane Katrina. It’s been predicted that similar cases can happen again in the flooded areas.

Zika Virus Infographic
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Most people affected by West Nile virus will experience no symptoms, but those affected by the “serious West Nile” virus can experience headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, trauma, or paralysis. In 1 percent of West Nile cases, patients can suffer serious neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis. The recovery process can take weeks or even months, and the neurological effects may never subside.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of people who contract the severe form of West Nile end up dying. The study suggests that residents should either wear mosquito repellent or stay indoors.

In addition, there have been confirmed cases of the West Nile virus in Benton County, Washington; Lane County, Oregon; San Bernadino County, California; Washoe County, Nevada; and Worcester County, Massachusetts.

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The health department has suggested the following tips to keep you and your family safe.

  • When outdoors, use repellents containing DEET, or DEET-free alternatives, such as lemon eucalyptus oil and citronella.
  • Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn. Use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved, light-colored clothing, or white if possible, or stay indoors during this time.
  • Inspect your home for openings mosquitoes could use to enter and make sure all windows have protective screens.
  • Empty standing water, such as flower pots, buckets, and barrels, where mosquitos could breed.
  • Change water in pet dishes and bird baths weekly.

The West Nile virus usually occurs during the summer and continues through the fall until the temperatures fall below 50 degrees.

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