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Durham Health Officials Issue Mosquito Warning

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham County Health Director Brian Letourneau is urging county residents to be vigilant in avoiding mosquito bites.

"North Carolina is seeing record numbers of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses," said Letourneau. "Last year the state recorded just three cases in the entire mosquito season. This year, North Carolina has already had more than 25 cases."

Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been found in the nearby counties of Franklin, Granville and Harnett.

"That means the virus that causes this deadly disease is present, and there is the potential for human exposure," Letourneau added. "People should avoid the outdoors during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. When you are outside, you should apply mosquito repellant and wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants." EEE is a rare disease, but can occur in humans and horses. The viral illness, transmitted by some kinds of mosquitoes, attacks the central nervous system, causes inflammation of the brain and can be fatal to animals and humans. Wild birds serve as natural hosts for the virus. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the virus to humans and animals. A person cannot catch EEE from another person.

North Carolina averages about one human EEE case each year. Young children and the elderly are most likely to contract EEE. Symptoms can develop from a few days to two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include rapid onset of fever and headache and can resemble a case of the flu. Survivors of EEE infections may suffer from long-term effects to the nervous system. Therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease, but there is no specific cure. There is a vaccine for horses but no vaccine for humans currently exists.

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