On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed the second West Nile virus death in the state. The deceased was labeled by the department as an individual over the age of 75.
The DHH State Epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard, spoke about the death and reminded individuals state-wide — even those who live in parishes without confirmed cases of West Nile virus — that constant vigilance is a necessity.
"The increased cases we are seeing this year are a firm reminder that West Nile Virus is a serious disease, and people need to be vigilant about protecting themselves," said Dr. Ratard. "We know from more than 10 years of surveillance that this disease is active in every corner of the state, and people are at risk of getting it regardless of whether cases or deaths occurred in their parishes. Everyone should take precautions against mosquito bites."
In Morehouse Parish, there are no reported cases of West Nile Virus, but routine tests of mosquito pools, such as the tests that take place in Ouachita Parish, are not conducted.
However, city and parish officials are taking a proactive approach to mosquito abatement.
According to Mayor Arthur Jones, the city of Bastrop sprays for mosquitoes five days a week from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and also drops mosquito abatement tablets in standing water to kill larvae.
At the parish level, the Morehouse Parish Highway Department has been spraying for mosquitoes for the past four weeks.
According to Gene Montgomery, highway department superintendent, the parish sprays for mosquitoes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. The parish uses two trucks to spray in rural areas and in the cities of Bonita and Collinston. However, spraying only takes place on days when there is no precipitation and when winds are low.
"We don't spray if it's raining, or if there is wind over five miles per hour," Montgomery said. "There is a stipulation from the company we buy the spray from."
Montgomery said that the spray is a liquid in the tank that emerges as a fog. If there is moisture in the air, it will settle to the ground and wind will push it all into one area.
The DHH reminds residents to take necessary precautions:
• If you will be outside, you should wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET.
• Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin.
• To apply repellent to your face, spray on your hands and then rub on your face, avoiding your eyes.
• Adults should always apply repellent to children.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time.
• Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
• Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors, and that all screens are free of holes.