09/24/04 — Health officials say residents should beware of mosquitoes

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Health officials say residents should beware of mosquitoes

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 24, 2004 1:58 PM

RALEIGH -- Cooler temperatures do not mean the risk for mosquito-borne illnesses has passed.

Officials from the N.C. Departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Health and Human Services continue to urge people to protect themselves from mosquito bites and the risk of Eastern Equine Encephalitis or EEE.

Avoiding places where mosquitoes are most active, applying insect repellent containing DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants are still recommended as ways to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illness.

Although human cases of EEE are rare, cases of this and other mosquito-borne diseases have been identified in sentinel chickens in nine eastern counties.

The state has had one confirmed case of EEE in a horse this year, said Dr. Nolan Newton, chief of the Public Health Pest Management Section of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

While rare in humans, EEE can be serious and even fatal when it occurs. North Carolina averages about one human case each year. About 50 percent of human cases are fatal, with young children and the elderly most at risk.

Therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease. There is a vaccine for horses but currently no vaccine or specific cure for humans.

The viral illness is transmitted to people by some species of mosquitoes after they bite infected wild birds. EEE attacks the central nervous system and causes inflammation of the brain. Symptoms can develop from a few days to two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include rapid onset of fever and headache and can resemble a case of the flu.

Limiting the areas where mosquitoes can lay their eggs is an important way of reducing their populations. It's as easy as being observant of one's surroundings, Dr. Newton said.

Mosquitoes can still be found in yards and neighborhoods until the first hard frost, he said. People who camp, hold cookouts or attend sporting events are often outside at the times when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk, resulting in the need to take extra precautions.

Suggested ways to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and reduce the risk of mosquito bites include:

*Make sure rain barrels have tight-fitting screens or lids.

*Remove any containers that can hold water, even a small amount, including 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.

*Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens fit tightly and are not torn.