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Eastern Equine Encephalitis shows up in New Hanover County; officials urge mosquito precautions

The good news:  it’s rare.  The bad news:  there’s no vaccine, no cure, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis can be fatal.  People catch it from mosquitoes – and with the recent rains, mosquitoes are plentiful.  WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports that authorities in New Hanover and Brunswick Counties are urging residents to take simple steps to protect themselves. 

Mosquitoes pass encephalitis to humans – usually after biting an infected wild bird – which make great hosts for the disease. 

In New Hanover County, health officials recently detected the disease in the local sentinel chicken flock. 

Exposure to the disease, according to a spokesman for Brunswick County’s health department, can result in lengthy illnesses, hospitalization, disability – even death.  Survivors of infections can suffer from long-term effects to the nervous system.  And therapy is limited to treating the symptoms because there’s no cure.

That makes taking basic precautions critical during mosquito season.  Officials recommend wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using mosquito repellant, and avoiding the outdoors at dawn and dusk when the insects are most active.   Cover rain barrels with tight-fitting screens.  And empty or remove any containers that hold even a small amount of water including saucers under flower pots.  The disease is almost always fatal for horses, but there is a vaccine for them – which can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Other important preventive measures:

  • Store out of service or unmounted tires under cover so as to prevent the collection of any water.
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair.
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets.
  • Use tightly-screened doors and windows.

For additional information regarding the use of repellents, click here.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.