NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two people have died in Louisiana as a result of West Nile Virus infections.

Louisiana’s health department confirmed this week’s deaths, the first West Nile deaths in the state since 2008, when one person died.

The health department also said Friday that the number of overall West Nile infections in the state rose this week by 21 for a total of 53.

West Nile infections usually cause no symptoms or relatively mild flu-like symptoms. But, in some cases, the mosquito-borne virus causes life-threatening brain or spinal cord diseases — also known as neuroinvasive diseases — such as encephalitis or meningitis.

The total number of such life-threatening cases reported for 2012 in Louisiana rose sharply this week, from 16 to 29.

The health department says about 90 percent of all West Nile infection cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent of those infected will develop the flu-like symptoms of West Nile fever.

Only a small number of infected people will show the serious symptoms associated with encephalitis or meningitis.

The 13 new neuroinvasive cases reported this week were reported from Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Natchitoches, Orleans, Rapides, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. There were also new West Nile Fever cases in Jefferson, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes and new asymptomatic cases in East Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee and Lincoln parishes. Asymptomatic cases often are found during blood work for blood donation screening or other purposes.

“We know from the past 10 years of surveillance that this disease has reached every corner of the state, meaning people are at risk for West Nile regardless of whether there are cases and deaths in your parish,” Dr. Raoult Ratard, the state epidemiologist said in a news release.