7 cases of mosquito borne illness confirmed in Knoxville; doctors caution parents


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - With everyone getting ready to get outside for the eclipse next week, doctors have a word of caution for parents. Knoxville has seen a spike La Crosse Encephalitis, a serious infection that mosquitoes in East Tennessee can carry. Though rare, the disease can be fatal.

"People that do get infected with this virus, quite frequently they'll have no symptoms at all," Dr. Seth Brown said. "More of the severe symptoms include fever, vomiting, headache, and increased sleepiness."

The disease mostly affects children under age 16. The La Crosse virus usually gets cleared out by the immune system. In rare cases, however, it can develop into encephalitis, which is much more serious.

"The severe form of La Crosse is La Crosse encephalitis," Jamie Swift, Director of Infection Prevention at Niswonger Children's Hospital, said. "So that's where you'd have swelling of the brain. You can have seizures, and more severe complications."

The weather conditions in the past month have made mosquitoes more active. They usually prefer high humidity, high rainfall, and calm winds.

Doctors have some recommendations to help prevent mosquito bites.

"Really to prevent mosquito bites it's certainly about wearing long sleeved clothing if you're outside," Swift said. "Wearing bug repellent is extremely important, and then around your house emptying any standing water."

Doctors also say if you notice fever or difficulty moving the neck after a bug bite, talk to a medical professional.

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