The Pender County Health Department is encouraging residents to take the necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites because recent weather conditions have created an environment for mosquitoes to thrive. Mosquitoes carry diseases such as the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV).

EEE can occur in humans and horses and was recently identified in a donkey in a neighboring county with onset of July 21st, 2018. EEE is a rare disease in both horses and humans but is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States, with approximately 33% mortality in humans, and significant brain damage in those that survive.

Symptoms in people develop from 4 to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Infection can result in mild or serious symptoms. The less serious form is characterized by a rapid onset of chills, fever, headache, and joint/muscle pain which lasts for 1 to 2 weeks, followed by complete recovery. The serious form progresses into additional symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, a bluish tinge to the skin, convulsions, and even coma.   Survivors of this serious form of EEE may suffer from long-term effects to the nervous system. Persons under age 15 and over age 50 are at greatest risk of developing severe disease. Therapy can treat the symptoms of the disease but there is no specific cure. There is a vaccine for horses to prevent EEE but not for humans.

West Nile Virus is mainly a disease of birds but can sometimes infect people, horses and other animals. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms at all. Some people will have mild symptoms while others may develop serious disease that can include high fever, convulsions, paralysis and, in some cases, lasting neurological effects. People who develop symptoms of severe WNV illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, should seek medical attention immediately. Severe WNV illness usually requires hospitalization. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. There has been one death from WNV in North Carolina already this year.

Pender County Health Department’s Mosquito and Vector Control Division is actively spraying for adult mosquitoes in the county and will continue to do so until mosquito populations are reduced. The best defense against EEE and WNV infection and other mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquito bites. Pender County’s Environmental Health Director, Vence Dodge urges residents to take the following precautions:

  • To make your home and yard less mosquito friendly, pour out any standing water, and remove any containers that can hold water, such as, barrels, tires, old cans, and wading pools; change water in bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week.
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair.
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets and replace window and door screens that have rips or tears.
  • For standing water around homes that can’t be eliminated consider purchasing larvicide tablets, also known as mosquito dunks, or come to the health department for some that are available free of charge.
  • Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito biting hours (from one hour before to one hour after dusk and dawn); wear long pants, shoes, socks, and long-sleeved shirts if outdoors around twilight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several repellents against mosquitoes – DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Consumers should look for products that contain the CDC-recommended ingredients and should read and follow all label instructions.

If you own horses consult with your veterinarian regarding the proper vaccinations and change the water in water troughs at least twice a week to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds

For more information regarding mosquitoes or mosquito control in your areas please contact Pender County Health Department Mosquito and Vector Control Division at 910-259-1326.

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