Health officials await test results from CDC
Published 10:42 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003
By By BILL CRIST Publisher
Local health officials say an eight-year old Brewton boy's death earlier this week was not a result fo West Nile Virus, but are awaiting test results before confirming a cause of death.
Dr. Dan Raulerson, Escambia County Medical Examiner, said that the case was definitely not West Nile Virus, but that the results from the CDC would be necessary before any specific virus could be confirmed. He did say that viral encephalitis was the cause of death, but that encephalitis had many causes.
Emilio Ryan Rivera of Brewton showed symptoms that lead health officials to believe that he contracted viral encephalitis, which ultimately led to his death on July 26. he was initially treated at D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital before being transferred to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola.
Ricky Elliott, environmentalist with the Alabama Dept. of Public Health confirmed that there had been a fatality in the county and that the result had been sent to the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), to determine what the specific cause of death was. Elliott said the symptoms the victim displayed were consistent with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, (EEE).
Dr. John Mosely Hayes, epidemiologist with the Alabama Dept. of Public Health confirmed that two cases of EEE were found in horses in Escambia County.
According to Elliott, those animals were euthanized in mid-July and submitted to the state lab. The tests came back positive for EEE.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is similar to West Nile Virus, (WNV) said Elliott. He said it was much more dangerous, though, with 30 percent of human cases resulting in death.
Like West Nile Virus, EEE is mosquito-borne and in human cases will cause inflammation of the brain, fever and tremors, among other symptoms.
The Alabama Dept. of Public Health confirmed a fatality from WNV in Alabama on Monday. It was the first confirmed case this year. An 80-year old Talladega County woman became ill in early July before dying recently.
According to published reports, an 81-year old man was in critical condition at a Baldwin County hospital while another was recovering at home in Monroe County on Monday.
As of Monday, there were six confirmed cases of WNV statewide, including one in Baldwin County.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been detected in an emu in Butler County, sentinel chickens in Baldwin county and eight horses spread among Baldwin, Chilton, Clarke, Covington, Dale and Mobile counties, in addition to the two cases here.
He recommended that citizens contact their local government agencies to make sure there is an integrated mosquito control program in place.
An integrated control program involves making sure that mosquito breeding grounds are eliminated, that larvacide briquettes are used in ponds and other standing water and that a spraying program is in place.
According to Elliott, Escambia County and the cities here all have spraying programs in place. He said that the spray is effective for killing mosquitoes, but that it must come in contact with the mosquito to kill it, and that there is no residual effect from spray.
He also said that the health department offices in both Brewton and Atmore still have a supply of Altosid larvacide briquettes that were purchased by the Escambia County Commission and the Escambia County Health Care Authority for distribution to the public. There is no charge for the briquettes and they can kill mosquito larvae for up to 30 days.
In addition, the Alabama Dept. of Public Health says that people should remember the five D's when it comes to mosquitoes; Dusk, Dawn, Dress, DEET and Drain.
Tthese two mosquito-borne viruses are not spread person-to-person, animal-to-person or animal-to-animal. A person or animal is infected through the bite of an infected mosquito.
The Health Dept. also said that many people who become infected never show signs of the West Nile Virus and never get sick from it.
According to the CDC website, symptoms of EEE range from flu-like illness to frank encephalitis, coma and death. There have been 153 confirmed cases in the United States since 1964.
There is no licensed vaccine or effective therapeutic drug for humans, the site said. There is a vaccine that can be given to horses to prevent infection, though.
Additional information about the two viruses is available on the Alabama Dept. of Public Health Web site at www.adph.org/westnilevirus.