West Nile reported in St. Amant, what now?

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
An Ascension Parish mosquito field agent surveys the new drone last year. Drones are used in the parish to combat mosquito larvae.

Just six days ago the La. Dept. of Health reported the first cases of West Nile virus for the year in DeSoto, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, EBR, and Ouachita Parishes. Yesterday, the Ascension Parish Government reported a case in St. Amant.

While the department reported seven cases up to this point in 2017, meaning we are down thus far, it is important to understand the facts of the disease.

First, three things may happen if a person comes in contact with the disease: 1. West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease, which is the worst, infects the brain and spinal cord. It may lead to paralysis, brain damage, or death; 2. West Nile Fever, which is milder, causes flu-like symptoms; or 3. Asymptomatic, which means there are no symptoms. Detection in these cases usually comes through routine tests or blood donations.

"Yes, we have someone in the parish who has contracted West Nile virus," Ascension Parish Public Information Officer Martin McConnell said. "But I'm finding out this morning, it takes a week or ten days before the symptoms of the virus present themselves. So the person could've been bit anywhere. We don't know."

The La. Dept of Health says that using mosquito repellant containing DEET is a good precautionary measure. However, a report states that when used on children, no more than 30 percent-DEET repellant should be used.

Moreover, avoid using perfumes and colognes when planning to be outside for an extended time. Wearing long sleeves and pants is of course also a good precautionary measure. The La. Dept. of Health suggests spraying exposed skin and clothing but spraying hands and then rubbing onto your face.

Do not apply repellant underneath clothes or on broken skin.

Other forms of home mosquito control are available, such as new Spartan Mosquito Eradicators. Based in Mississippi, this company sent samples to media outlets last month, including theWeekly.

Two people at the office said since they have utilized the Spartan system, they have not dealt with a mosquito problem. It is basically a tube filled with a solution that hangs from a tree placed 90 feet from your home. Other media outlets reported that the product is flying off shelves. Visit spartanmosquito.com for more info.

"All we were able to do was say the general area they were from," McConnell said. "I can tell you the mosquito control people have received more than 500 requests for service to have them come out and spray people's homes."

That number is from just over the past day, since the report was released. McConnell said that Ascension residents are welcome to call in and make a request. The number is 225-621-9613. More info about WNV can be found by searching mosquito control at ascensionparish.net.

"We want everyone to know that we're hitting this full time, but we've got seven field agents to handle 550 requests for service," McConnell said. "These guys are getting it as quickly as they can, but if they don't come today hang tight, and we will be there."

Additionally, the parish continues to spray every evening. The drone is also in use for spraying larvicide. A big problem is standing water. Get rid of it if it's on your property. It could be something as small as a flowerpot.

Louisiana is home to dozens of species of mosquitoes, which inhabit a wide range of habitats,” Ascension Parish Mosquito Control Director David Matassa said. “However, they all require standing water to complete their development cycle. Reducing or eliminating standing water on your property is the best way residents can help to combat the mosquito problem.”

WNV is believed to be spread to humans when a mosquito feeds on birds that are infected. Horses may also become infected. The parish reminds you to use gloves when disposing of dead birds around your property.

Lastly, fatality due to WNV is roughly five percent of those who are hospitalized. This statistic is higher in the elderly. However, mosquitoes also potentially carry Encephalitis, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Malaria, etc., so use precaution.