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Protecting yourself from mosquito-borne viruses

Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 18:58:52-04

CLEVELAND — Labor Day is seen by some as the unofficial end to summer, but with the weather still warm, many people will spend time outdoors this holiday weekend and will need to exercise caution when it comes to mosquitoes.

One case of Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, has been confirmed in a horse in Ashtabula County. The virus, which causes inflammation of the brain, primarily infects horses.

RELATED: Case of deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis confirmed in Ashtabula County

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of seven human cases are reported each year, and the CDC website shows there have been no human cases in Ohio in the last 10 years.

Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals, said the virus is aggressive and has a rapid onset.

“There’s no treatment for this,” Edwards said. “There’s no vaccine” for humans, only horses.

Edwards reiterated that the disease is extremely rare in humans, but for the few people who do get it, the symptoms are severe and often fatal.

“Headache, altered mental status, you know, any signs of a brain infection,” Edwards said of the symptoms, noting that nearly all patients who do not die from EEE have some kind of brain or neurological damage.

However, EEE is not the only mosquito-borne disease.

“There’s Eastern equine encephalitis, there’s Western equine encephalitis, there’s Saint Louis encephalitis, there’s La Crosse encephalitis, there’s West Nile virus,” Edwards said.

Some of those present more severe symptoms than others, but in general, none of them can be treated, according to Edwards. That’s why it’s so critical to protect yourself from mosquito bites. From wearing long sleeves to using DEET-containing repellent, there are ways to reduce your risk of getting a mosquito bite.

“Avoiding being outside at the times when mosquito activity is the highest, which is going to be sunrise and sunset,” Edwards said.

People should also avoid damp or wet places where mosquitoes tend to hang around.

“You don’t want old tires or potted plants, how they can have water sitting in the bottom,” Edwards said. “You want to make sure that stays cleaned out, like after rain.”