Mosquito bites could cause rare illness in children

Caring For Our Kids

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Mosquitoes are always a nuisance this time of year, but a bite from a mosquito can be more than itchy if the insect is infected with a virus that causes La Crosse encephalitis. This severe illness occurs most often in children. Dr. Heather Edgley from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital shares more about the disease and how you can prevent mosquitos from biting.

What is La Crosse encephalitis? 

It’s a rare disease that causes swelling of the brain that begins with the bite of a virus-carrying mosquito. Most cases have been reported in the Upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. Kids are at the greatest risk of severe illness from the virus.

Is this something you see at Children’s Hospital? 

Mosquito season is just picking up here, but the hospital has already had two cases of La Crosse encephalitis this season, according to Edgley. She says that they had 15 cases last year.

What are the signs/symptoms? 

Most people infected with La Crosse will have no apparent illness, but for those who become ill, they have the following:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Seizures, coma and paralysis can occur in the most serious cases. It is more common in those under the age of 16.

How do you treat it? 

The good news is most patients recover completely. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, so it’s supportive treatment in a hospital setting. Hospitalized patients may receive respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections.

Prevention

  • Use insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
  • Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels, kiddie pools and other containers around your home.

For more information:

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