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September 7, 1999

Five cases of Encephalitis Confirmed in New York

Other states also report cases of the illness.

NEW YORK, NY (SafetyAlerts) - The New York Department of Health reported yesterday, the death of two elderly individuals, and the illness of three other elderly persons in Queens, were confirmed to be associated with St. Louis Encephalitis, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes.

The Department of Health continues its investigation of other possible cases of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) among New York City residents living in Queens, the South Bronx and Manhattan. Including the five confirmed cases, a total of 39 cases are now under investigation.

Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen, M.D., said, "With the considerable media attention being paid to these cases of St. Louis Encephalitis, we have received a number of of reports from hospitals about suspicious cases, most of which became ill before Friday's announcement. While these illnesses may be caused by other viruses that are common at this time of year, we continue to fully investigate all cases."

Other states have also reported strains of Encephalitis, mostly in animals.  In Indiana one horse from in Elkhart County has been confirmed as having died from Eastern Encephalitis. A second horse, from the Topeka area in La Grange County, is suspected as having died from the disease.

According to a story in the Detroit Free Press, traces of the virus have been found in the Kalamazoo and Gladwin areas of Michigan.   Eastern Equine Encephalitis has infected eight people in Michigan since 1980. Four of them have died, the most recent in 1997.

In Florida, Mosquito Control has discovered Encephalitis in test chickens in Lee, Hendry and Charlotte Counties

There is no vaccine for humans and no treatment once a person is infected.  When humans are infected, the virus can cause a severe infection, with occasional permanent neurological damage and a 40-percent fatality rate.

Symptoms of encephalitis start with a fever, accompanied by a severe headache and a stiff neck. Anyone experiencing these symptoms at this time should consult with a physician.

Health officials in Indiana are advising people to use repellents when in areas that mosquitoes are biting.  Use of repellents should be done with caution, and users should always follow the directions on the label. The New York State Department of Health does not recommend that repellents with concentrations of more than 15 percent active ingredients be used on children. Pediatric formulations are available.


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