West Nile Virus reports from Florida and Mississippi; Eastern Equine Encephalitis report from New Jersey; and Rabies report from Texas.

Photo Credit Anastasia Mosquito Control District, St Johns County, Florida.

Florida 10/26/10 highlandstoday.com: by Brad Dickerson – Sebring – Residents are reminded of the importance of protecting themselves against mosquito-borne illnesses after confirmation of Highlands County’s first human West Nile Virus case in eight years.  Barbara Moore, with the Highlands County Health Department (HCHD), said the confirmation came on Oct. 22. The person has since recovered from the illness.

Mississippi 10/26/10 wtok.com: Jackson – Health officials say one new case of West Nile virus has been reported in Mississippi, bringing the state total to seven so far this year.  The Mississippi Department of Health said in a news release that the new case occurred in Tallahatchie County.   So far this year, there have been three positive cases reported in Leflore County, and one each in Coahoma, Calhoun, Scott and Tallahatchie counties.

New Jersey 10/20/10 state.nj.us: by Lynne Richmond – Trenton – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today announced a 2-year-old horse from Monmouth County was euthanized on October 6 after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare, but serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses.   The Monmouth County mare had not been vaccinated against EEE. 

Texas 10/25/10 caller.com: by James Powell – Portland – Some boys were

Mexican Free-tailed Bat. Photo credit ThisOldHouse.com

kicking and throwing rocks at a Mexican free-tailed bat, when Stephanie Wikoff, 6, stepped in to save it.  The bat sunk its fangs into Stephanie and later that day, Oct. 18, she went to Driscoll Children’s Hospital where she got the first in a series of rabies shots as a precaution, her father Derek Wikoff said.  A few days later the state confirmed that the bat was rabid.  Now several others also are getting shots and health authorities are taking precautions to prevent an outbreak of the disease that almost always is fatal.

Authorities also want to question a family down the block from the Wikoffs on Commons Way South in Portland who found a bat in their garage and may have handled it. And an odd-acting stray cat that was found wandering in the neighborhood Sunday has been sent to Austin for analysis, because it also may be infected, San Patricio County Health Authority James Mobley said.  Stephanie’s sister Dorothy, 17, Zachary Jones, 20, an 18-year-old woman, a 59-year-old man and a boy, 12, all handled the bat and started rabies shots Saturday as a precaution, Mobley said.

Vaccination decisions are based on the situation and amount of exposure. Treatment, which prevents the disease’s onset, includes one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.  “They don’t hurt much when you get them,” said Jones, who took one in the arm and one in each leg. “The ones in the legs still hurt. “I’m just glad they don’t do it in the belly anymore. I was freaked about that.”

Rabies is spread when an infected animal’s saliva is passed to one who is uninfected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common transmission is through a bite, though there are documented cases of airborne spread and contamination of mucous membranes such as eyes, nose or mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Once symptoms start, the disease is almost 100 percent fatal, Mobley said.

Since 1990 there have been eight cases of rabies in Texans, one in 2009, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. All died.  Jones said seeing the bat on the ground was no surprise for those in the neighborhood because lots of them fly out of an opening in the shingles of an apartment four-plex down the street every evening at dark.

Mexican Free-tailed Bats. Photo credit The Nature Conservancy.

Colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats can number more than 1,000 in a space the size of an attic, said Kevin Koski, a bat specialist with United Bat Control, a nationwide commercial and residential bat removal service.  One in five bats has rabies, Mobley said.

Portland Police Chief Randy Wright said the city has been in contact with the owner of the four-plex. State authorities have recommended the hiring of a firm that specializes in bats, because handling them in the wrong way can cause more problems than it solves, Wright said. Bats, which are federally protected, should not be killed, they should be evicted.

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