Health officials warn of EEE risk
by Scott Witten Editor
Although there have not been any confirmed cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Scotland County, health officials are warning residents here to take precautions against that and other mosquito-related illnesses.
Scotland County Department of Public Health issued an advisory on Thursday warning to protect themselves against mosquito bites and the risk of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus .
“Recent rains and humid temperatures leave a friendly environment for mosquitoes,” said Brian Lowry, Scotland County Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Program coordinator. “Residents need to know that they can make their yards less friendly for these disease-carrying insects as well as know what they can do to prevent being bitten.”
As of last week, there had been five confirmed cases of the EEE in nearby Cumberland County. No cases had been confirmed in Scotland County.
But health officials say there is still a risk.
“There is no cure for WNV and EEE and no vaccine available right now, so people need to protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites,” said Dave Jenkins, Scotland County Health director.
Jenkins urged people to minimize unprotected outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk, the times during the day when mosquito activity peaks as they search aggressively for blood meals.
“Protective measures include applying insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants,” he said.
Though typically rare in humans, when it does occur, EEE and WNV are very serious illnesses and can be fatal.
The young and elderly populations are at greatest risk. Survivors of EEE infections may suffer from long-term brain damage. Therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease, as there is no specific cure and no available vaccine for humans. Horse cases are almost always fatal.
Horses that have EEE, a virus causing inflammation of the brain, can be identified by several symptoms, including high fever; periods of excitement and restlessness; drowsiness; circling aimlessly; and eventually paralysis. The mortality of horses that encounter the virus is about 80 percent.
A preventive vaccine is available, and effective for horses if administered before the animal is bitten by infected mosquitoes. Vaccinations should be administered by a licensed veterinarian to assure that viable vaccine is utilized and injections are properly administered.
Scotland County Department of Public Health offers the following tips for making homes and yards less mosquito friendly:
• Cover rain barrels and ensure they have tight-fitting screens;
• Pour out any standing water, and remove any containers that can hold water, especially tires;
• 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;
• Check window and door screens.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several repellents 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 should read and follow all label instructions.
For information on preventing mosquito and tick bites and associated diseases, contact Scotland County Department of Public Health at 910/277-2440 or check the following Web sites: www.epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rmsf, www.healthychildren.org, www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/arbovirus .
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