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Three new West Nile deaths, total cases up to 53

State health officials confirm three more people have died from West Nile virus, bringing the total to nine so far this year.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals also said Friday that 53 new human cases of the virus have been confirmed and mark 145 reported infections so far in 2012 — the highest number of cases the state has seen in the past several years.

Of the new cases reported this week, DHH says 31 are of neuroinvasive disease, which infects the brain and spinal cord and can lead to death; 17 have West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms, and five are asymptomatic cases, meaning people show no symptoms of the disease.

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