UPDATE 9/18/13 @ 6:25 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two cases of La Crosse encephalitis, a disease carried by mosquitoes, have been confirmed in children younger than 15 years old.
The disease, transmitted by infected mosquitoes, can cause brain infections and is not treatable with antibiotics because it is a virus, similar to West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Its effects can be serious, and officials from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department are urging people to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Gladys Hudson knows what encephalitis can do to children. Her grandson Randy Estep had encephalitis about 20 years ago, when he was 9 years old. She said she insists her family members use bug spray and be cautious when outside.
"I have a great-grandson and where he's out on the porch and I don't like for him to be playing too much out here because these mosquitoes, they're flying around and you don't know what kind they are," Hudson said.
Estep experienced severe headaches after his bite from an infected mosquito. When his mother took him to the hospital, doctors tested him. When the results came back, Hudson said, the doctors called at 2 or 3 a.m. and asked for Estep to be rushed back to the hospital.
"Because he needed to be there, because they said it was pretty bad," Hudson said.
While Estep made a full recovery, Hudson said she will always worry about mosquitoes.
"Somebody said they got bit by a mosquito, and that's the first thing comes to your mind," Hudson said.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said that the symptoms for this disease are wide-ranging. Sometimes, he said, there are no symptoms at all.
"Simple things like headaches, but that can also go on to more severe symptoms, like seizures, nausea, vomiting, sometimes the neck can become rigid," Gupta said.
He added, "It reminds us of the importance of precautions being taken to avoid mosquito bites."
Some of those steps include removing any containers that collect water near homes and avoiding pools of stagnant water and wooded areas.
Other recommendations include using insect spray, making sure doors and screens are tight, wearing long sleeves and long pants when outdoors and avoiding outside activities at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
Gupta noted that La Crosse encephalitis is rarely fatal, and that most people don't have the most serious of symptoms. But children may have headaches, seizures or other problems after they get well.
"Being hospitalized, being really sick, and sometimes having even life-long consequences is not unusual," Gupta said.
"You can't tell by seeing a mosquito if it's infected with the disease, so parents need to be aware of the symptoms," Janet Briscoe, the health department's director of epidemiology, said, noting that symptoms take one to two weeks to appear.
Last year, there was only one case of La Crosse encephalitis in all of Kanawha County. This year, there have already been two cases, and the season is not over yet.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.
The disease can cause inflammation of the brain resulting in a severe life-threatening illness, according to a news release.
Dr. Rahul Gupta says so far this season, two children in Kanawha County have been hospitalized with the disease.
The cases involved children under the age of 15, Gupta said. The virus has been isolated from mosquito pools collected in several counties in West Virginia, including a site in the eastern part of Kanawha County.
Children are most at risk, but the disease can occur at any age.
Most people with La Crosse infection do not get sick.
Some people may develop a mild illness with symptoms of headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and confusion. In severe cases, people may have seizures or go into a coma. La Cross is rarely fatal, but children may have headaches, seizures or other problems after they get well.
There are some steps you can do to prevent the infection, including removing containers that collect water near homes.
Other recommendations include
-Make sure doors and screens are bug tight
-Remove containers that can collect standing water
-Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors
-Avoid outside activities when mosquitoes are active (usually dusk and dawn)
-Use an effective insect repellent that contain one of the following DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 and follow the manufacturer directions carefully.
There is no way to determine if a mosquito that bites you is infected, but if your child develops symptoms you should call your doctor.
For more information click on the link below. You can also call the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department at 304-348-1088.