Hillsborough confirms case of rare mosquito-borne illness, EEE

A mosquito bite spread Eastern equine encephalitis in Hillsborough County earlier this month.

Associated Press

A mosquito bite spread Eastern equine encephalitis in Hillsborough County earlier this month.

TAMPA — Hillsborough health officials are warning the public to be vigilant about mosquito bites after confirming an extremely rare human case of Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, a mosquito-borne illness that causes inflammation of the brain.

The unidentified victim acquired EEE in the northwestern part of Hillsborough County earlier this month and is recovering, the Florida Department of Health announced in a news release.

The last human case of locally acquired EEE in Hillsborough was in August 2010.

"We are thankful that this individual is recovering, and doing well," said Douglas Holt, director of the Hillsborough County Health Department. "While it's unusual that we see a case of EEE so early in the year, it's not that surprising given that we've had a very mild winter locally."

Mosquito-borne illness advisories are declared when human cases of locally acquired disease have been confirmed, or when evidence of intense virus transmission has been detected among animals.

Eastern equine encephalitis is caused by a virus spread by infected mosquitoes. Nationally, between five and 10 cases of the potentially fatal illness are reported each year.

EEE is not contagious among people; it can only be transmitted through a mosquito. Symptoms may include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and coma, according to Amanda Pullman, an epidemiologist with the Hillsborough health department.

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Tips for staying safe:

• Drain standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.

• Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that could be used as breeding areas.

• Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. Cover boats with tarps.

• Repair broken screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

• Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves.

• Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are most effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months.

Source: Hillsborough County Health Department

Hillsborough confirms case of rare mosquito-borne illness, EEE 03/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 9:23pm]

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