Short-Lived Mosquitoes

** FILE ** This undated handout file photo provided by the Agriculture Department shows an aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin. Old mosquitoes usually spread disease, so Australian researchers figured out a way to make the pests die younger - naturally, not poisoned. Scientists have been racing to genetically engineer mosquitoes to become resistant to diseases like malaria and dengue fever that plague millions around the world, as an alternative to mass spraying of insecticides. (AP Photo/USDA, File)

The West Baton Rouge Mosquito Control office has detected its first case of West Nile virus of the season, prompting an increase in mosquito spraying this week in the southern part of the Parish, officials said.

The agency collected 45 mosquito samples across the parish and announced Monday that one had tested positive for the virus, which can cause high fever and potentially deadly complications for humans and farm animals.

Last year, 223 mosquitoes tested positive for the virus during the parish’s monitoring between March and September, said Mosquito Control Superintendent George Bragg. Monday’s results signify a far-milder year for the virus.

”We might be on track for the lightest we’ve ever had," Bragg said.

Mosquito control crews plan to spray for mosquitoes and their larvae in areas near Addis, where the mosquito tested positive for West Nile.

Despite the low number, as well as no confirmed human cases in Louisiana, Bragg cautioned people not to drop their guard.

Healthy people who contract West Nile Virus often can combat it with little medical treatment. But people over 65, young children and those with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to complications that can cause significant brain damage, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State and local officials warned people to take precautions like wearing mosquito repellent and long sleeves, removing standing water from a property and sealing their homes.

Pets and other animals can also contract West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said Monday that it’s observed one case of West Nile in a horse since June 5.

But the agency said it’s found a high number of statewide eastern equine encephalitis cases in horses in that time. Encephalitis is a brain inflammation.

The virus is similar to West Nile virus and is spread after a mosquito bites an infected bird and then another animal or person shortly after. State agents confirmed 16 cases of the ailment in horses so far this season.

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain faulted recent wet weather for the high number of encephalitis cases and urged horse owners to seek vaccinations for their horses.

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com.