Originally created 08/13/97

Equine encephalitis found in 3rd Georgian



BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A third person in southeast Georgia has contracted eastern equine encephalitis, the Southeast Health Unit reported.

A Jeff Davis County man who had been hospitalized in Savannah in mid-July is convalescing at home after blood tests performed last week confirmed he contracted the mosquito-borne disease in July, said Ted Holloway, director of the Waycross-based health unit.

The man is expected to fully recover without any of the neurological damage typical of non-fatal episodes of equine encephalitis, Holloway said.

There is no cure or human vaccine for the disease, which is fatal in 40 percent to 60 percent of cases, he said.

"He's doing well now," said Holloway, who would not name the man but said he is in his 30s. "He still has a little bit of weakness, but we believe he's going to recover completely."

The recent diagnosis comes less than two weeks after a 12-year-old Coffee County girl died and her 10-year-old half-sister was hospitalized after contracting the disease.

Kimberly Chaney, 10, is in satisfactory condition at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Kelly Gooding, Kimberly's half-sister, died July 31, just days after being hospitalized with the disease.

In Florida, a case of eastern equine encephalitis was confirmed last month in a 14-month-old Hamilton County girl. State officials also suspect a recently hospitalized 51-year-old Putnam County man has the disease, but test results are not due back until later this week.

Eastern equine encephalitis is rare in humans, with a national average of 15 cases reported each year, Georgia health officials said. The disease is more common in animals.

In Georgia, veterinarians have reported many cases in horses, pigs, goats and other animals. Florida health officials say a few horses have died from the disease this summer.

In humans, the disease causes acute inflammation of the brain, spinal cord and the membranes that coat them, Holloway said. Symptoms include headache, high fever, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors and spastic paralysis.

The disease is transmitted only through mosquito bites; it cannot be caught from contact with an infected person or animal.

Last week, two physicians with the Georgia Department of Public Health began canvassing hospitals and doctors' offices in Jeff Davis, Coffee, Atkinson, Clinch and Ware counties to see if more cases had been seen in the past 60 days, Holloway said.

Area health departments also are working with city and county governments to increase mosquito-control efforts, Holloway said.

Coffee County launched an aggressive campaign to control mosquitoes last week, especially along the Willacoochee Highway southwest of Douglas where the two girls lived, said County Commission Chairman Frank Jackson.

"We've got a man spraying morning and evening," Jackson said.

The best prevention for individuals is to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent and by wearing long sleeves, hats and long pants, Holloway said. Biting insects are most active in the hour before and after dark, he said.