Alexandria resident dies after contracting West Nile

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A longtime Alexandria resident has passed away after contracting the mosquito transmitted West Nile Virus. Donald Austin, 71, died on Thursday after battling the virus for more than two weeks, according to his daughter, Sally Greathouse.

Donald Austin (Photo Couresty: Sally Greathouse)

Mr. Austin’s family is not quite sure where he contracted the virus, but they said he did yard work during the mornings in Rapides Parish. Greathouse said her father started getting sick about two weeks ago and started feeling sick. They suspected the flu but then later learned he contracted the West Nile Virus.

Mr. Austin’s family said they want to raise awareness to remind people to be vigilant.

Dr. David Holcombe with the Office of Public Health said there have been three cases of West Nile here in Rapides Parish in August. Dr. Holcombe said they expect a milder year when it comes to cases across the state, but it seems to be starting earlier than usual. According to the Office of Public Health, there have been 19 cases across Louisiana.

"Nine percent about will have a fever, they will probably not think anything of it and think it was a cold or flu or something and move on,” said Dr. Holcombe. “Then one percent will get this very devastating form where the virus actually invades the brain and gives them encephalitis and a small group of people can die from the disease."

According to the OPH, the state saw a spike of cases in 2002 with more than 300 cases where it steadily declined over the years. Then in 2012, the cases spiked above 300 again where it has been decreasing since.

Here are some safety tips:

When you work outside, make sure to put on bug repellent. Also, wear long sleeves, and remove any standing water in the area which can attract mosquitoes. Try not to work outside in the early morning hours and evenings when mosquitoes are more likely to feed.

News Channel 5 also reached out to local government about their mosquito abatement programs. The City of Alexandria said they have been spraying in neighborhoods since march and put out larvicide in standing water areas.

The Rapides Parish Police Jury said they have a Mosquito Abatement District, but it's not currently funded.

Also, the City of Pineville said they don't have a specific plan but do occasionally spray, especially in areas where a community event is happening.

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