The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has confirmed two new human cases of West Nile Virus, bringing this year’s statewide total to 12.

The 2011 number so far is less than half of 2009’s 29 total cases of West Nile virus, Louisiana’s lowest year on record, a news release says.

Both new West Nile cases are in St. Tammany Parish, the news release says.

The news release gives the following information about West Nile infections:

Health officials characterize West Nile infections three ways: neuroinvasive, West Nile fever and asymptomatic.

A neuroinvasive illness is severe and typically results in a swelling of the brain or spinal cord. People with this illness are at risk of brain damage or death.

West Nile fever is less severe, with most people only suffering mild, flulike symptoms.

Asymptomatic individuals were never ill and were only discovered to have the West Nile virus in their blood when bloodwork was done for some other reason, such as blood donation.

One of the new cases is neuroinvasive disease and the other is West Nile fever. So far this year, Louisiana has confirmed six neuroinvasive disease cases; four West Nile fever and two asymptomatic cases.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites.