A Baldwin County resident has died from eastern equine encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus infection, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced today.
The person had become ill in September. It’s the first confirmed case of EEE in an Alabama resident since 2014. EEE activity was reported earlier this year in a mosquito sample and sentinel chicken in Mobile County and a horse in Houston County, the ADPH said.
The Centers for Disease Control said that as of Oct. 22 it has received reports of 35 confirmed cases off EEE in the United States this year, resulting in 13 deaths. That does not include the Baldwin County case.
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. Severe cases of EEE start with headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting, the ADPH said. Worsening symptoms include disorientation, seizures, and coma. About one-third of patients who develop EEE die. Many who survive have mild to severe brain damage. Symptoms develop 4 to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.
People under age 15 and over age 50 are at greatest risk of severe illness when infected with the EEE virus.
Horses are susceptible to EEE and can die from it. Horses are not likely to spread the infection to people because they are considered to be “dead end” hosts for the virus, as are people. Vaccination can protect horses.
Dr. Sherri Davidson, ADPH interim state epidemiologist, said people should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites despite the low number of EEE cases. Davidson recommended:
— Insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing.
— The repellent/insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing to protect through several washes. Always follow the directions on the package.
— Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits. ·
— Have secure screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
— Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels and other containers. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when not in use.
For more information, visit the website of the Alabama Department of Public Health.