JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – With the eclipse coming up on Monday, Niswonger Children’s Hospital is asking parents to take certain precautions against mosquitoes if traveling to the Knoxville or Smoky Mountain area where cases of a potentially serious mosquito-borne infection have been reported.
A children’s hospital in Knoxville is reporting an increase in the number of patients diagnosed with La Crosse encephalitis, a mosquito-borne illness that can lead to seizures, coma or even death in extreme cases.
There has been one confirmed case of La Crosse encephalitis at Niswonger Children’s Hospital this summer.
La Crosse encephalitis is found in the upper Midwestern United States and in the Appalachian region, including East Tennessee. Anyone who is bitten by a La Crosse-infected mosquito can get La Crosse encephalitis, and children under 16 years old are most susceptible.
“Symptoms of La Crosse encephalitis may include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and tiredness,” said Jamie Swift, corporate director of infection prevention for Mountain States Health Alliance. “Most people bitten by a La Crosse-infected mosquito will never even develop symptoms. The risk is extremely low.
“The best thing for parents to do is help their kids avoid mosquito bites by putting insect repellent on them before they go outside. The most effective repellents contain DEET.”
Swift said it’s also important to remove any standing water around your home, which is often where mosquitoes breed. Other recommendations include:
- Wear long sleeves, pants and socks when weather permits.
- Get rid of old tires, tin cans, buckets, or any water-holding containers.
- Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Also, empty children’s wading pools and store on their side after use.
- Cover trash containers.
- Install and repair screens. Have secure, intact screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
- Change water in pet dishes, bird baths, plant pots or drip trays at least once a week or more.
- Keep grass cut short and shrubbery well-trimmed around the house.
- Clean out guttering so water drains properly.
“We really want to make sure parents take all the proper precautions,” said Dr. Seth Brown, medical director of Niswonger Children’s Hospital’s emergency department. “We certainly don’t want anyone to panic, but La Crosse encephalitis is something to take seriously.”