SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness has sickened a child in Chatham County.
The victim, an 8-year-old girl, has been hospitalized for weeks. But it wasn’t until Monday when doctors at Memorial Health’s Children Hospital were able to make an official diagnosis of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
Now, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Chatham County Mosquito Control have joined the investigation into this illness.
“This case, we don’t know where…the potential transmission happened, so that’ll be part of the investigation where we get to jump all over it to see what we can do to stop it,” explained Chatham County Mosquito Control Director Ture Carlson.
Carlson explains the cattail mosquito, a vector for diseases like EEE, are found in a specific habitat — usually around their namesake, in swampy areas or near ponds.
“It’s not like most mosquitoes where you find it in your back yard,” Carlson said.
Experts say that while EEE is rare, it can kill.
“Only four to five percent of persons who are infected by the virus actually develop encephalitis, and of those persons who are infected, about 30 percent of them have a fatal outcome,” said Robert Thornton, an epidemiologist with the Georgia Department of Public Health District.
“Most of them who survive have some neurological deficits,” he added.
There is no cure for the disease; prevention is the best medicine.
“Definitely personal protection is going to be the biggest thing,” Thornton said.
Throughout the year, Mosquito Control reminds residents to remember the 5Ds of mosquito bite prevention:
- Dusk/Dawn: Avoid outdoor activities during this time when mosquitoes are most active
- Dress: Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants reduce skin exposure
- DEET: Use an insect repellent containing this chemical, considered the most effective against mosquito bites
- Drain: Empty containers holding standing water like buckets or barrels that could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes
- Doors: Ensure windows and doors are sealed tightly and screens are not damaged
To learn more about EEE, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website here.