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Two Kanawha children treated for encephalitis

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two Kanawha County children were treated in a hospital for La Crosse encephalitis earlier this summer, officials from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said Wednesday.

Both children live in the eastern part of the county and are under age 15, said Janet Briscoe, director of epidemiology for the health department.

"The kids are out of the hospital," she said. "We have interviewed the parents... they are still doing follow-up care with physicians but they are doing better."

One child was hospitalized at the end of July and the other was at the end of August, Briscoe said.

La Crosse encephalitis is caused by a bite from an infected mosquito. It can cause brain inflammation resulting in a life-threatening illness.

"Children can have long-term neurological consequences so they have to have follow-ups that continue for a period of time," Briscoe said. "Not every one who gets it gets that sick. It usually occurs in children under 15 but it can happen at any age. We see a lot of it in children."

Health officials in the state regularly test mosquitoes for diseases that can be given to humans. The La Crosse virus was found in several counties, including a site in the eastern part of Kanawha County.

Children are most likely to get the disease if they live near the woods and play outside near areas where mosquitoes breed between May and October. Mosquitoes can breed in areas where there are containers that hold standing water such as old tires, rain barrels, buckets and wading pools, according to health officials.

Mosquitoes are most active in the early mornings and evenings, Briscoe said.

"If the kids are going to play outside in the early morning or evening, they should wear long sleeves, long pants and wear proper insect repellent," she said.

The families of both infected children reported that the kids often play outside in the woods.

Most people with La Crosse do not get sick, officials said. Some may have a mild illness and symptoms that include: headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and confusion. In severe cases, people can have seizures or go into a coma. The disease is rarely fatal.

The health department recommends the following things to prevent mosquito-related illness:

| Make sure doors and screens are tight enough to keep bugs out.

| Remove containers that collect standing water.

| Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

| Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn.

| Use an effective insect repellant.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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