Health department: EEE found in county

Published 9:01 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

South Alabama has had three positive cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in area horses — including one in Escambia County.

The Alabama Department of Public Health announced the cases Thursday. The others were in Baldwin and Washington counties.

“With many people enjoying outdoor activities, it is important that residents take every effort to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes,” said Associate Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Dee W. Jones. “Keep your mosquito repellent with you at all times when you are working or participating in recreational activities outdoors.”

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EEE, West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes after they feed on birds. The same mosquitoes can then infect mammals, particularly humans and horses. Humans and horses can sometimes become seriously ill from the infection.

Transmission to humans and horses can be decreased by persons taking steps to avoid mosquitoes and by the use of WNV and EEE vaccine in horses. According to Jones, although there is no vaccine available for humans, vaccination for horses is very important in preventing infection in these animals.

Since mosquitoes are commonly found throughout much of Alabama, health officials offer practical strategies for the mosquito season:

• Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothes to help prevent mosquitoes from reaching the skin and to retain less heat, making yourself less “attractive” to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colors.

• When possible, wear long sleeves and long pants.

• Avoid perfumes, colognes, fragrant hair sprays, lotions and soaps, which attract mosquitoes.

• Follow the label instructions when applying repellents. Permethrin repellents are only for clothes – not for application on the skin.

• When using repellents avoid contact with the eyes, lips and nasal membranes. Use concentrations of less than 10 percent when applying DEET-containing products on children.

• Apply DEET repellent on arms, legs and other exposed areas but never under clothing.

• After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.

• Citronella candles and repellents containing citronella can help, but their range is limited.

The Escambia County Health Department has established a mosquito control program that includes surveillance activities such as mosquito trapping and testing and sentinel chicken surveillance.

In addition to surveillance activities, the department also works to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and conducts larvicide and adulticide applications. Larvicide is also available free to the public for application in low-lying areas that retain water and ornamental ponds.

“It is reasonable to assume that mosquito-borne viruses are likely circulating between mosquitoes and birds in all parts of Baldwin and Escambia counties,” Jones said. “Everyone should try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.”