As of Friday, there were no confirmed cases of LaCrosse encephalitis for 2006. A local health official would like to see that zero figure reported throughout the summer months.

“You have to remove the breeding grounds for the treehole mosquito that carries the virus,” said Brian Bell, regional epidemiologist for the Raleigh County Health Department in Beckley. “Keeping that mosquito population down and preventing mosquito bites are the best ways to guard against LaCrosse encephalitis.”

That means removing any kind of standing water — even in pet dishes, bird baths, children’s wading pools, flower pots.

“Old tires are the biggest culprit,” Bell said. “It’s hard to get water out of those, and they are prime breeding grounds for the treehole mosquito.”

Pet dishes, bird baths and wading pools should be emptied and refilled with fresh water at least two or three times a week, he said.

Wearing an insect repellent containing DEET can help prevent mosquito bites. It’s important, however, to always wash the repellent off once you come inside. Be sure to reapply if you go out in harm’s way again.

“You always need to keep windows and doors bug-tight,” Bell said. “Prevent mosquitos from getting into your home.”

Children under the age of 16 are most susceptible to La-Crosse.

Symptoms include a high fever that doesn’t respond to medications such as Tylenol, a head-ache, stiff neck, listlessness and/or irritability.

The LaCrosse virus causes encephalitis, which is a brain inflammation that can first appear with flu-like symptoms.

It can be treated with anti-viral medications and with antibiotics if secondary bacterial infections develop.

LaCrosse encephalitis is a frightening and painful illness, even though it carries only a 1 percent mortality rate.

“The best thing to do is try to prevent it,” Bell said.

If symptoms do appear, it’s better to err on the side of caution and see a health care provider immediately.

“You definitely want to get a child diagnosed and get medical care started as soon as possible,” said Nancy Ward, infection control nurse at Raleigh General Hospital in Beckley.

— E-mail: bdavis@

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