On July 22nd, State public health officials announced the season’s first case of the mosquito-borne illness La Crosse viral encephalitis (LAC). The patient – a child from Macon County – is recovering.
“This case is an important reminder that we all need to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” State Epidemiologist Megan Davies said. “In addition to La Crosse, mosquitoes may carry other viruses such as those causing eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus infection and other diseases.”
You can protect yourself against mosquito-borne illness in a number of ways:
La Crosse viral infection symptoms occur from a few days to a couple of weeks after being bitten. 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.
While other mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus infection are found across the state, LaCrosse encephalitis is largely confined to western North Carolina and is the state’s most common mosquito-borne disease. Most cases in North Carolina are recorded in late summer and early fall. State officials recorded 21 LAC cases in 2010. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records about 70 cases each year. The disease is rarely fatal, but a Swain County child died as a result of infection in 2009.
There is no vaccine against La Crosse encephalitis virus (LACV), so reducing exposure to mosquito bites is the best defense against getting infected with LACV or other mosquito-borne viruses. For additional information regarding mosquitoes and ticks, visit the N.C. Public Health website. For more information on insect repellent use in children, see the Healthy Children website. For specific information on the use of DEET on children see the American Academy of Pediatrics.