NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- State officials have boosted mosquito-spraying efforts and stocked up on insect repellent to help battle the worst outbreak of the West Nile virus since it was first detected in the United States three years ago.
A fifth Louisiana resident died from the virus, health officials said Tuesday. And another 14 people contracted the mosquito-borne disease, bringing the state's total to 71.
State officials planned to give away insect repellent to tourists at interstate welcome centers, warning that the outbreak is likely to get worse before fall brings cooler weather and fewer mosquitoes.
Two Louisiana congressmen said they received a commitment from President Bush in a private meeting to help secure federal money to fight the virus after Gov. Mike Foster declared a state of emergency last week. Democratic Rep. William Jefferson and Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin said the state needs $3 million to $5 million for more mosquito spraying.
The outbreak is the deadliest since 62 people became ill and seven of them died in New York in 1999, in the first detection of the virus in the United States.
The latest to die was a 76-year-old woman from St. Tammany Parish, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans.
Most people bitten by an infected mosquito don't become noticeably ill, but some develop flu-like symptoms, and the weak and the elderly can get encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain infection.
Mississippi has 22 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus. Texas has 10 suspected cases and Arkansas has one. Since 1999, the virus has been found in birds and people in 34 states and Washington, and health officials expect it will continue spreading west. On Tuesday, the first human case in Illinois was confirmed.
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