Michael F. Easley
Governor

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Carmen Hooker Odom
Secretary

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: July 17, 2007

  Contact: Debbie Crane

N.C. Records First Case of La Crosse Encephalitis

RALEIGH – N.C. public health officials today announced the season’s first case of La Crosse (LAC) encephalitis. The patient – a 3-year-old girl from Buncombe County – is recovering.

“ This case is a reminder to all of us. We need to take actions to prevent mosquito bites,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Engel. “You can protect yourself and your loved one by applying mosquito repellants and making your environment less attractive to mosquitoes.”

La Crosse symptoms occur from a few days to a couple of weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. These symptoms include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, convulsions, tremors and coma can occur. Children under 16 years of age and the elderly are the most susceptible to the disease. In this case, the victim was hospitalized for three days in early July.

While other mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus are found across the state, La Crosse is largely confined to western North Carolina. It is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the state. North Carolina recorded 17 LAC cases in 2006, all in the west. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 cases a year are reported annually. The disease is rarely fatal, but a Transylvania County girl died as a result of infection in 2001.

Here’s what you can do to make your home less mosquito-friendly:

• Remove any containers that can hold water;

• Keep gutters clean and in good repair;

• Repair leaky outdoor faucets and change the water in bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week; and

• Check window and door screens.

The same goes for mosquito-proofing places like church playgrounds and ball fields. Work with other parents to ensure that those places aren’t providing mosquitoes with a happy habitat.

You can also protect your family from mosquito bites by using mosquito repellants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several repellants against mosquitoes – DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. 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 CDC-recommended ingredients and follow all label instructions.

You can also “fight the bite” by reducing time spent outdoors, particularly in early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are most active and wearing light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts.

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Public Affairs Office
101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
(919)733-9190
FAX (919)733-7447

Debbie Crane
Director