Franklin girl contracts encephalitis

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2001

MEADVILLE – A four-year-old Franklin County resident who contracted encephalitis &uot;seems to be doing fine,&uot; said Dr. Mary Currier, state epidemiologist.

The child is out of the hospital after she contracted what appeared to be LaCrosse (LAC) encephalitis at the end of July, Currier said.

No other cases have been reported in Franklin County and &uot;kids with (LaCrosse) are more likely to have symptoms than adults,&uot; Currier said.

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LaCrosse is one form of encephalitis transferred to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Children who contract LAC usually suffer at least one seizure.

They are usually sick for a week or so and then get better, Currier said.

Four other cases of LAC encephalitis have been identified in Mississippi in George, Noxubee, Marion and Neshoba counties.

The disease might cause fever, headache, nausea, vomiting or drowsiness, said a press release from the Mississippi Department of Health.

Severe cases can cause coma or paralysis none of which have occurred in the Mississippi cases, Currier said.

Most people infected by the disease do not know it, with only one in every 200 actually getting sick, Currier said.

Eastern equine encephalitis, has a higher mortality rate with one in four people infected getting sick, Currier said.

In northeastern Louisiana, 31 people have been diagnosed with St. Louis encephalitis with one possible fatality reported Wednesday.

Because the Centers for Disease Control provided money to test for encephalitis in birds and people this year, Currier said an increase in cases may not be surprising.

For example, a live bird found in Pearl River County, tested positive for equine encephalitis after its blood was analyzed.

&uot;I think we’re just finding what’s been here all along,&uot; Currier said. &uot;We’re looking harder for it.&uot;

But to prevent catching the illness, Currier advises the public to use precautions.

Because the mosquito vectors of LAC only breed in artificial containers such as tires or in tree holes, the public should dispose of old cans or tires or other items that hold water on their property.

They should also store boats covered or upside down, remove tree stumps that hold water, place tight covers on cisterns, septic tanks, rain barrels or tubs where water is stored.

They should also change the water in bird baths, plant pots, drip trays or plastic wading pools at least once a week and apply mosquito repellent outside especially during the morning and evening hours, Currer said.

To assist the health department in tracking the disease, the public can use a bag to pick up any dead blue jays or crows they find in which the cause of death is unclear.

They should keep the birds chilled and take them to their local health department for analysis, Currier said.