First death from EEE virus confirmed in Alabama, ADPH confirms

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(WIAT) — The Alabama Department of Health confirms the first case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a Baldwin County resident. The person who became ill in September has died from the mosquito-borne virus. This is the first human EEE case in an Alabama resident since 2014.

According to Dr. Sherri Davidson, ADPH interim state epidemiologist, just because the case counts are low for Alabama, it should not deter people from continuing to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

“Outdoor activities are increasing as the weather becomes more pleasant, like community youth league sports, fall festivals, hunting, and of course, football season. The best treatment is prevention,” Dr. Davidson said.

Savannah Duke, ADPH public health entomologist, recognizes that people want to enjoy the outdoors and avoiding mosquitoes altogether is not practical. She said, “The most important information to know is how to protect yourself and your family from mosquito-borne diseases.”

What are the symptoms?

According to the ADPH, the symptoms begin with a sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress to disorientation, seizures and a coma. ADPH states that a third of patients who develop EEE die, and those who survive have mild to severe brain damage.

An infected individual will not show symptoms of EEE until four to 10 days after the bite.

What if it’s in my area?

The ADPH states that residents of the area where EEE has been identified (in this case, Baldwin County) and people who engage in outdoor work and recreational activities in endemic areas are at risk of infection.

Who’s at risk?

Persons over the age of 50 and under the age of 15 appear to be at a greater risk of developing the severe disease when infected with EEE.

Are animals at risk?

ADPH states that horses are susceptible to EEE and some cases are fatal. The infections in horses ARE NOT a significant risk factor for humans, this is because horses are considered to be “dead-end” hosts for the virus (not able to infect mosquitoes which spreads the virus).

Horses can be vaccinated to protect them against EEE.

What are ways to prevent mosquito exposure?

The ADPH stated the following tips:

Use 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.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, 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 they aren’t being used.
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