July 30, 2008

Galesville Boy First Encephalitis Case

By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 30--GALESVILLE, Wis. -- A 6-year-old Galesville boy is the Coulee Region's first reported La Crosse encephalitis case this summer.

Health officials first thought the boy was infected with the West Nile virus, but the encephalitis diagnosis was confirmed Tuesday by officials at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, where the boy is hospitalized.

Dave Geske, La Crosse County mosquito control officer, said he and his staff surveyed the boy's home and found encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes in tires on nearby properties in a wooded area.

Geske said his staff put up mosquito trap lines to monitor the area. No encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes were found at the boy's home, he said.

"This case, like so many cases, shows the impact of these tires because they are perfect breeding places for these mosquitoes," Geske said. "We're going to continue to monitor the neighborhood and area, and we're asking people to be vigilant about cleaning up their property."

Christine Berth, Trempealeau County health officer, said the boy had the classic signs of encephalitis -- fever, headache, muscle aches, disorientation and seizures.

Berth said the boy developed symptoms in early July and was hospitalized for a few days. He got better and was released from the hospital, but later his condition worsened and he was hospitalized again, she said.

"The most important thing we're doing right now is getting information out to the neighbors and the community to give them a heads-up about what is going on," Berth said.

La Crosse encephalitis affects the nervous system. The disease, which has a death rate of 5 percent to 20 percent, usually affects children between the ages of 6 and 15. Encephalitis can progress to seizures and coma. The majority of infections result in mild illness.

The disease peaks during August and September. More than half of the annual cases are reported in September. The La Crosse area has five or six reported cases each year.

Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at [email protected], or (608) 791-8227.


Tips for preventing encephalitis:

--Keep no artificial man-made habitat -- tires, containers, boats, children's wading pools and bird baths -- with standing water outside. Ensure roof rain gutters drain properly, and make sure there is no standing water in your yard.

--Use mosquito repellents containing DEET, and always follow label instructions. Use especially in late afternoon and early evening when mosquitoes are active.

--Do not use colognes or after-shave lotions, which attract mosquitoes. If walking through a wooded area, wear shirts with long sleeves and pants, also good protection against tick bites.

--Mosquito-proof your home. Fix window screens. Mosquitoes are attracted to lights and heat.

--Report clogged storm sewers and ditches holding water. Quiet, long-term ponds with 1 1/2 inches or less of water are perfect breeding places for mosquitoes that carry encephalitis and West Nile. You can report these areas to the La Crosse County Health Department at (608) 785-9872.

Source: La Crosse County Health Department


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