30 human cases of West Nile, La Crosse virus confirmed in Tennessee

WATE 6 On Your Side staff - NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) -- The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that they have had 19 human cases of West Nile virus and 11 cases of La Crosse virus infection in the state so far in 2017.

While most people have no symptoms from West Nile virus, about 1 in 5 people will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.

Like the West Nile virus, many people infected with La Crosse virus have no apparent symptoms. Among people who become ill, initial symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Some of those who become ill develop severe neuroinvasive disease that may involve inflammation of the brain, seizures, coma and paralysis.

Related: East Tennessee Children's Hospital reports rise of mosquito-borne encephalitis cases

‘'We typically see an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses caused by West Nile Virus and La Crosse Virus in our state this time of year,'' said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. ‘'There are no vaccines for these illnesses, so it's important to use insect repellent on skin and wear ‘long, loose an light' clothing to make it harder for mosquitoes to bite and easier to spot them. Buying or properly treating clothes with permethrin, which is like body armor against mosquito bites, is also a good idea for higher-risk situations.''

How to protect yourself

The health department is urging Tennesseans to increase their efforts to avoid mosquitoes by:

  • Using EPA-approved insect repellants containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 on your skin. Follow all label recommendations for use. Pay particular attention to recommendations for use on children and never apply any of these products around the mouth or eyes at any age. Talk with a health care provider if questions arise.
  • Use products containing permethrin, a highly effective insecticide, for clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes and other pests and retains this effect after repeated laundering. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin. As a caution, however, do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Wear ‘'long, loose and light'' clothing. It's best to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants. Loose-fitting clothing helps prevent bites through the fabric. Light-colored clothes are less attractive to many insects and help make them easier to spot and remove.

It's also important to limit mosquito breeding sites. The health department says individuals can eliminate potential breeding sites if they tip and toss standing water and drain and cover objects near homes or businesses that may contain or collect water.

They say a mosquito can lay eggs in a container as small as a soda bottle cap. Additionally, keeping window screens on your home or business in good condition to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings.

"Many mosquito species do not travel farther than the length of football field or two from where they are hatched,'' said TDH Vector-Borne Disease Program Director Abelardo Moncayo, PhD. ‘'By establishing a zone where mosquitoes cannot breed around your home, you protect yourself, your family and your neighbors.''

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