Grainger Today Editor
RUTLEDGE – After learning of reports of area children becoming ill and hospitalized after being bitten by a mosquito, Grainger Today reached out to the Grainger County Health Department in an attempt to confirm the incidents.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), 19 cases of West Nile Virus infection and 11 cases of La Crosse Virus (LACV) infection have been confirmed in Tennessee in 2017.
In response to Grainger Today’s request for information, Grainger County Health Department Director Gail Harmon checked with the Tennessee Department of Health’s Communicable Environmental Disease Section regarding the number of children diagnosed in Grainger County with encephalitis.
She said she was able to determine there have been three non-confirmed cases of LaCrosse with children diagnosed with encephalitis in the 15-county East Region.
Harmon said, “In order for an illness to be considered an outbreak, there have to be two or more illnesses from the same confirmed source or travel destination (same demographic location, pool, gathering etc.), which we have not been able to confirm.”
She said the health department would like the public to know the importance of mosquito prevention as the most efficient way to prevent contracting mosquito-borne illness.
TDH issued a press release encouraging individuals to take proactive measures to prevent mosquito bites.
‘’We typically see an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses caused by West Nile Virus and La Crosse Virus in our state this time of year,’’ said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. ‘’There are no vaccines for these illnesses, so it’s important to use insect repellent on skin and wear ‘long, loose an light’ clothing to make it harder for mosquitoes to bite and easier to spot them. Buying or properly treating clothes with permethrin, which is like body armor against mosquito bites, is also a good idea for higher-risk situations.’’
TDH is urging Tennesseans to increase efforts to avoid mosquitos by limiting mosquito breeding sites.
“Many mosquito species do not travel farther than the length of football field or two from where they are hatched,’’ said TDH Vector-Borne Disease Program Director Abelardo Moncayo, Ph.D. ‘’By establishing a zone where mosquitoes cannot breed around your home, you protect yourself, your family and your neighbors.’’
Tips to avoid mosquito bites are:
- Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, if possible, since this is the time of greatest mosquito activity.
- Wear long, loose and light-colored shirts and pants and wear socks. Tucking shirts in pants and tucking pants into socks will help form a barrier. Wear closed shoes or boots instead of sandals.
- Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase pretreated permethrin clothing.
- Avoid perfumes, colognes and products with fragrances that might attract mosquitoes.
- The CDC recommends the use of repellants which contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane 3, 8-diol and IR3535. Duration of protection varies by repellant; read labels on products to determine when reapplications are necessary for optimal protection.
Individuals can eliminate potential breeding sites by draining standing water from objects and covering items that might collect water. Mosquitos can lay eggs in items as small as a soda bottle cap. Individuals are also encouraged to ensure window screens on their homes and businesses are in good condition to prevent the entry of mosquitoes into buildings. Weeds, tall grass and bushes also provide an outdoor home for mosquitoes
Take the following simple steps to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes:
- Dispose of, regularly empty, or turn over any water-holding containers such as tires, cans, flower pots or trashcans.
- Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors.
- Make sure roof gutters drain properly and water doesn’t stand in them.
- Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week.
- Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Keep swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs clean and properly chlorinated; remove standing water from pool covers.
- Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
According to the CDC, “Many people infected with LACV have no apparent symptoms.
Among people who become ill, initial symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. Some of those who become ill develop severe neuroinvasive disease (disease that affects the nervous system). Severe LACV disease often involves encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) and can include seizures, coma and paralysis. Severe disease occurs most often in children under the age of 16. In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result from La Crosse encephalitis. There is no specific treatment for LACV infection– care is based on symptoms.”
Anyone who exhibits symptoms of severe LACV disease, or any symptoms causing concern, should consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis.