Health officials issue warnings

Published 4:09 pm Thursday, August 16, 2012

Health officials in both Alabama and Florida have issued warnings concerning the possible contraction of mosquito-borne illnesses.

The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a warning late last week, stating local residents should be on guard against mosquito-borne illnesses after four cases of the West Nile Virus have been reported in the state so far this summer. For Atmore residents, a confirmed case of the virus in neighboring Escambia County Fla. has given the warning even more clout.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed Wednesday the first human case of WNV has been reported in Escambia County (Fla.), although the FDH did not disclose where in the county the person resides. In late July, the ADPH confirmed four positive cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses located in Dallas County and also diagnosed four sentinel chickens in Baldwin County as suffering from the West Nile virus.

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Approximately one-in-five people who are infected with WNV will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, according to ADPH findings. Less than one percent, they say, will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

Officials said sentinel chickens are used to monitor the presence of mosquito-borne disease in an area and, at this point, five sentinel chickens in Baldwin County and three sentinel chickens in Mobile County have tested positive for WNV this summer.

Dr. Dee W. Jones, state public health veterinarian, said residents should be on guard during the rainy summer season as mosquitoes that can spread these viruses to humans are commonly found in urban and suburban communities, as well as rural, freshwater swamp areas. They will breed readily in storm sewers, ditches, waste lagoons and artificial containers around houses.

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

Dr. Susan Turner, Associate for the Escambia County (Fla.) Health Department said awareness is they key to prevention.

“A human case of West Nile Virus indicates a high risk of becoming infected with the virus,” Turner said. “It is especially important to protect yourself and those you love from mosquito bites right now.”

According to the ADPH, when a person is infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment for these illnesses can substantially lower the risk of developing severe disease. About 10 percent of people who develop neurological infection due to WNV will die. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent the most common mosquito-borne diseases, such as WNV and EEE, is to avoid mosquito bites by following these recommendations:

· Use insect repellents when going outdoors.

· Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.

· Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air   conditioning, if available.

· Empty standing water from items outside homes, such as flowerpots, buckets and children’s pools.

No medications are available to treat or vaccines available to prevent WNV infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care. Anyone who has symptoms that cause concern should contact a health care provider.

Repellents are an important tool to assist people in protecting themselves from mosquito-borne diseases. CDC recommends the use of repellents containing active ingredients which have been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing. Products containing these active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection. These include the following:


· Picaridin

· Oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD, the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus

· IR3535

Insect repellents must state any age restrictions. According to the label, oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under three years of age. Parents should choose the type and concentration of repellent to be used by taking into account the amount of time a child will be outdoors, exposure to mosquitoes and the risk of mosquito-transmitted disease in the area. People should consult their health care provider for advice about using repellent products on children.