Tennessee health officials are reporting an increase in the mosquito borne diseases, West Nile virus and La Crosse Virus.

Aedes triseriatus Image/CDC
Aedes triseriatus

To date, 19 human cases of West Nile Virus infection and 11 cases of La Crosse Virus infection have been confirmed.

What is La Crosse encephalitis virus?

La Crosse encephalitis virus (LACV) is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most cases of LACV disease occur in the upper Midwestern and mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.

It was reported first in 1963 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and the vector is thought to be a specific type of woodland mosquito (Aedes triseriatus) called the tree-hole mosquito.

Among people who become ill, initial symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Some of those who become ill develop severe neuroinvasive disease (disease that affects the nervous system).

In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result from La Crosse encephalitis.

’We typically see an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses caused by West Nile Virus and La Crosse Virus in our state this time of year,’’ said Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. ‘’There are no vaccines for these illnesses, so it’s important to use insect repellent on skin and wear ‘long, loose an light’ clothing to make it harder for mosquitoes to bite and easier to spot them. Buying or properly treating clothes with permethrin, which is like body armor against mosquito bites, is also a good idea for higher-risk situations.’’

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TDH urges Tennesseans to increase their efforts to avoid mosquitoes. It’s also important to limit mosquito breeding sites. Individuals can eliminate potential breeding sites if they tip and toss standing water and drain and cover objects near homes or businesses that may contain or collect water. A mosquito can lay eggs in a container as small as a soda bottle cap. Additionally, keeping window screens on your home or business in good condition to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings.

“Many mosquito species do not travel farther than the length of football field or two from where they are hatched,’’ said TDH Vector-Borne Disease Program Director Abelardo Moncayo, PhD. ‘’By establishing a zone where mosquitoes cannot breed around your home, you protect yourself, your family and your neighbors.’’