4 West Nile deaths confirmed in La. State declares emergency; virus marches west across U.S. Nick Leggio finds a dead blue jay in his New Orleans yard on Saturday, as he waits for the city's pest control officials to pick up the bird to test for West Nile virus. Blue jays are among the birds most often found to harbor the virus. MSNBC NEWS SERVICES ATLANTA, Aug. 3 — Lawmakers are working to get more money to battle an outbreak of the West Nile virus, which has infected 58 Louisiana residents, killing four of them. The disease is spreading to virtually every corner of the state, health officials said. Take our interactive quizzes Sign up for our free health e-newsletter • Yellow Pages • Auctions at uBid • Personals Channel • Professional Tips • Newsletters • Shopping REPUBLICAN STATE Sen. Tom Schedler said a special legislative fund of $6 million to $7 million could be exhausted based on the projected magnitude of the West Nile outbreak. East Baton Rouge has spent nearly 10 times the money on fogging and spraying for mosquitos this year than was spent in all of 1998. Earlier this week, health officials confirmed that an 83-year-old Baton Rouge woman had died from West Nile. The latest victims include a 53-year-old man from Folsom, a 75-year-old man from Baton Rouge and E.C. Hunt Jr., a 72-year-old man from the Calcasieu Parish town of Iowa. Becky Hunt, E.C. Hunt’s wife, said her husband apparently contracted the virus around July 4, after resisting her entreaties to use mosquito repellent. She said she learned Thursday, after his funeral, that he had the virus, and hopes the news of her husband’s death will cause others in southwest Louisiana to heed the experts’ advice. “Listen to them, and listen to your wife when she tells you to put on repellent,” she said. Select from the list below for more information. What is it?How is it transmitted?What are the symptoms?What can be done to reduce the risk of infection? The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus common in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East. It was first seen in the eastern United States in the summer of 1999. The virus is spread to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito (primarily Culex pipiens, the common house mosquito). Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on birds that carry the virus. The virus is not spread by person-to-person contact such as touching or kissing. There is no evidence that a person can get the virus from touching infected birds, but people should always wear gloves and exercise caution when handling dead animals. Many people who are infected with West Nile virus experience no symptoms. Others may experience mild symptoms, such as low-grade fever, headache and body aches, skin rash or swollen lymph nodes, within three to 15 days. In some people, particularly the elderly, children or people with weak immune systems, the virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain tissue), which can result in permanent neurological damage and, in rare cases, death. Encephalitis symptoms include the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, muscle weakness and coma. Some at-risk cities spray pesticides to reduce mosquito populations. In areas where the virus has been found, people should take the following precautions to avoid exposure to mosquitoes: From April to October, minimize time spent outdoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening, when mosquitoes are most active. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin and clothing, according to manufacturer’s directions. Repellent may irritate the eyes and mouth so avoid applying it to the hands of children. Make sure that doors and windows having tight-fitting screens. Remove water-holding containers from your property, such as discarded tires, tin cans, ceramic pots and plastic containers to eliminate standing water, which serves as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Change the water in bird baths at least once a week. Drain water from pool covers and keep pools and hot tubs cleaned and chlorinated. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sources: Chris Rooney, WNYT-Albany, N.Y.; CDC; New York City Department of Health Printable version On Friday, the Department of Health and Hospitals said it had confirmed the first human cases of West Nile virus in Washington, Allen, Orleans, Calcasieu and Ouachita parishes. August 3 — The mosquito-borne West Nile virus has now spread to 31 states, killing 4 people in Louisiana, and the number of cases is growing. NBC’s Virginia Cha reports. Officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been tracking the rapid spread of West Nile, said the outbreak was worrying because most cases in recent years tended to occur at the end of summer or in early autumn. But in can also spread when the insects become active in spring and when birds carry it as they migrate. The virus has since headed west and south. Eight people in Texas and five in Mississippi are sick with West Nile encephalitis, a potentially fatal swelling of the brain. “It will eventually get to all the Western states over time, we believe,” Dr. Roy Campbell, a CDC medical epidemiologist, said at a news conference Friday. The CDC Web site contains more information on the virus, ways of transmission and preventative measures. FEDERAL MONEY SOUGHT Gov. Mike Foster declared a statewide emergency, a move he said could help bring in federal money to fight the nation’s second-worst epidemic of the West Nile virus, which can cause the potentially fatal brain inflammation known as encephalitis, as well as milder illnesses. Foster said he hopes the declaration will pave the way for federal cash to help parishes that are using up their money for mosquito spraying far faster than usual. “There ought to be some kind of relief. This is an emergency situation,” Foster said Thursday on his weekly “Live Mike” radio show. Before the newly announced deaths, the CDC had confirmed 185 cases, including 18 deaths, since the first Americans were diagnosed in 1999. The virus was first detected in New York City. Dr. Anthony Marfin, a West Nile expert with the CDC, noted that the agency’s epidemiologists and other staff members were helping health officials in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas develop mosquito-control and public education programs intended to prevent further cases. VECTORS AND SYMPTOMS Most people who contract West Nile suffer nothing more than headaches and flu-like symptoms, but the elderly, chronically ill and those with weak immune systems can develop fatal encephalitis and meningitis when infected. Advertisement West Nile, which is spread largely through the migration of infected birds, has expanded quickly since its arrival on the U.S. Eastern seaboard. At least 18 people have died of West Nile since 1999. The virus infects numerous types of wild birds, from house sparrows to crows. Mosquitoes spread it among birds, and then to people. A spate of dead birds can be an early warning signal that the virus is circulating in a certain spot. At least 31 states, stretching from Massachusetts to Texas, and the District of Columbia have reported some West Nile activity in 2002, according to the CDC’s latest update on the virus. WEST COAST WITHIN A YEAR? Earlier this week, White House officials said a crow found dead at the executive mansion had been infected with virus. Health experts expect the virus to become more widespread in the nation, possibly reaching the West Coast within a year. The majority of the human cases reported this year have occurred around the Lake Pontchartrain area near New Orleans, a phenomenon that health officials have been unable to explain. Health experts have noted that the risk of contracting West Nile virus in humans is still extremely low and could be reduced further if people used mosquito repellents, wore long sleeves and pants at night, and eliminated pools of standing water where mosquitoes breed.