Two additional cases of La Crosse encephalitis confirmed in Macon County
Macon County Health Director, Jim Bruckner announced on Monday that two additional cases of La Crosse encephalitis were confirmed in Macon County. Bruckner confirmed that both patients were admitted during September to Memorial Mission Hospital and both patients are currently recovering at home. Laboratory testing to confirm La Crosse encephalitis relies on antibody testing which can take up to two weeks to produce a definitive result. These two cases of La Crosse encephalitis brought Macon County’s total to three for the year, with the first case being diagnosed back in June.
Stan Polanski, Physician Assistant at Macon County Public Health said the La Crosse encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.
“Many people infected with the La Crosse virus have no apparent symptoms, but some individuals, most often children under 16, will develop disease symptoms which may include fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Severe disease can develop involving encephalitis and can include seizures, coma, and paralysis. In rare cases, long-term disability or death can occur.”
Because the La Crosse virus does not cause severe symptoms in most infected persons, it is difficult to estimate the number of infections occurring each year. Bruckner stated, “Many infected individuals do not know they are infected, and consequently never seek treatment or laboratory confirmation of infection.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most recent cases of La Crosse encephalitis have occurred in the southeast and mid-Atlantic areas of the United States. Between 1964 and 2010, there were 237 confirmed cases documented in NC, with nearly all of those cases occurring in the western part of the state. The virus is transmitted through the bite of the eastern treehole mosquito. This mosquito lays its eggs in tree holes and man-made containers and it typically bites during the daytime hours.
Because there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for La Crosse infection, Bruckner emphasized that prevention is the best way to avoid infection with the La Crosse virus. Bruckner encouraged the use of insect repellent and elimination of mosquito breeding grounds as a first line of defense.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends several repellents against mosquitoes - DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535. According to the CDC, oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years old. Consumers should look for products that contain the CDCrecommended ingredients, and should read and follow all label instructions. In addition, the following advice should be followed for elimination of mosquito breeding grounds:
1. Use “mosquito dunks” in ponds and other bodies of shallow standing water. These dunks are available at home improvement and most farm and garden centers.
2. Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
3. Drain all sources of standing water. At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, bird baths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans.
4. Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
5. Remove discarded tires that could collect water.
6. Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
Questions regarding mosquito transmitted diseases may be directed to the Macon County Public Health at 349-2081. Detailed information about insect repellants may be obtained by visiting the Centers for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm.