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Mosquito-borne virus that causes a brain swelling, found death in people in Florida



Summer often means the mosquitoes are not full strength anymore, but these biting insects are not only annoying – in some cases they can be dangerous.

A mosquito-borne virus that causes brain swelling and can be fatal In Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health, a human being has been detected in Orange County.

After a bite from an infected mosquito, it takes four to 10 days to develop symptoms of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In severe cases with brain inflammation, the symptoms start with a sudden headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The infection can then progress and lead to disorientation, seizures and coma.

About 30 percent of the people infected with the virus die, and according to CDC many survivors suffer from chronic neurological problems ranging from mild to severe brain damage.

Although infection is extremely rare in humans who are bitten by an infected mosquito (in the US, on average, only seven cases of equine encephalitis are reported annually), there are no specific treatment options. According to CDC, antibiotics are not effective against the virus, and effective anti-viral drugs are still lacking.

So what can you do to protect yourself – especially if you live in Florida, along with Massachusetts, New York or North Carolina, where most cases have been reported? The best way to prevent infection with the virus is to prevent mosquito bites. So it's:

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Keep mosquitoes away with an effective insect repellent or pesticide. The CDC recommends the use of ingredients registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET, picaridine, IR3535 or lemon eucalyptus oil. The EPA has a tool to help you find the right repellent for you. Ask your pediatrician about safe insect repellents for children and how to apply them safely.

If you use sunscreen – something everyone has to do every day and all year – apply sunscreen and then insect repellent.

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If mosquitoes are around you, wear light long-sleeve shirts, pants and socks to cover exposed skin. You can also spray the pesticide Permethrin on clothing, including socks and shoes (not while you're wearing it) to get an extra layer of protection. Since the product is a pesticide, it is important to follow the instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on your skin.

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Standing water attracts mosquitoes. The CDC therefore recommends that you leave stagnant water on your property, including buckets, barrels, hoops, and other containers such as children's plastic or inflatable basins, as well as swimming pools. Also, make sure windows (and doors, if possible) have intact screens to keep out mosquitoes.

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