BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – According to one statistic, there are as many as 110 trillion mosquitoes in the world and they outnumber humans by nearly 16,000 to 1.

At times, residents of Louisiana may feel that most of these mosquitos are right here in the Bayou State.

It is true that there are a number of mosquitos in Louisiana, and perhaps this plays a role in the state’s increasing number of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease (NID) cases.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Louisiana has the fourth-highest rate of NID in the U.S.

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) adds that as of September 21, there are a total of 33 NID cases in the state and three West Nile fever cases. Sadly, five people diagnosed with NID have passed away.

What is the difference between West Nile virus and NID?

According to LDH, West Nile virus is a flu-like illness with symptoms that typically include fever, headache, body aches, nausea or rashes.

Some people who have West Nile virus can develop NID, which is a severe form of infection and is also known as West Nile encephalitis. This can result in hospitalization and death. Symptoms may include high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, numbness, coma and paralysis.

Usually, the symptoms linger for several weeks and leave the patient susceptible to death or permanent brain damage.

Why healthcare experts are urging Louisianans to use caution

Healthcare experts say Louisiana is seeing more NID cases now than it has in the past three years.

This is why LDH issued a Wednesday, September 21 news release, urging locals to take precautions against mosquito bites that can lead to exposure.

State Health Officer, Dr. Joseph Kanter said, “Most cases of West Nile fever go unreported, because individuals with mild fevers or flu-like illness are less likely to seek medical care or testing. That said, neuroinvasive disease from West Nile virus can be a devastating condition for some, with the potential for debilitating, life-long ramifications.”

He added, “While we are in the height of season, I urge families across the state to take the simple steps of protecting themselves from mosquito bites and turning over any containers holding standing water around the outside of the house, which can serve as breeding sites for these mosquitos.”

LDH’s tips on protecting yourself against West Nile

  • If you will be outside, you should wear EPA-registered approved mosquito repellent and always follow product label instructions. 
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing, but do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin. 
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. 
  • To protect yourself from being exposed to mosquitos while indoors, make sure that windows and doors are tight-fitting and that all screens are free of holes.

LDH’s suggestions protecting your home from mosquitoes

  • Reduce the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around your home, which is where mosquitoes breed.
  • Dispose of tin cans, ceramic pots and other unnecessary containers that have accumulated on your property that may collect water. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools, buckets, trash cans, children’s toys or anything that could collect water.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. If a recycling container has holes on the sides, there is still room for the container to collect water for mosquitoes to breed, so holes should be added on the bottom if not already present.
  • Check and clean roof gutters routinely. Clogged gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Water gardens and ornamental pools can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate. Take steps to prevent stagnation, such as adding fish or aeration.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family for a little as a month can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers. 
  • Contact local mosquito abatement districts to report mosquito problem areas.

Click here for more information on West Nile virus.