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Health, Science & Environment

Ohio ranks highest in the nation for mosquito-borne La Crosse Virus cases

Zibby DeWitt, A Clark County Health District Employee, Preps The Vehicle Used for Mosquito Adulticide Misting In Raynor Park
Chris Welter
Zibby DeWitt, a Clark County Health District employee, preps vehicle used for mosquito adulticide misting in Park Layne, Ohio

As public health agencies gear up for another active mosquito season in the Miami Valley, they are especially concerned about La Crosse virus (LAC).

The most recent CDC data on LaCrosse Virus from 2021 shows that Ohio had the highest number of LAC cases in the country — with incidences concentrated in the southern, more Appalachian parts of the state.

Scientists don’t know why LAC is more prevalent in Ohio than neighboring states and there is currently no cure for it. LAC can cause deadly swelling of the brain (encephalitis) most often in children.

Brian Byrd, a professor at Western Carolina University, said that means people must focus on prevention.

“One of the challenges that we experience is that most of the time when we respond to a case the parents have never heard of this disease,” Byrd said. “So they weren't taking any personal protection measures.”

To protect from LAC, experts recommend wearing EPA-registered repellents and long sleeves and pants and removing any standing water.

At the community level, scientists say public health awareness campaigns and programs that make sure people have properly screened windows in their homes can make a difference.

Becky Trout Fryxell, an associate professor with The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, said that instead of referring to LAC as an emerging virus, she prefers calling it “a neglected virus.” In her view, it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves since being discovered in the 1960s.

“So for me, as a parent, as an entomologist, somebody aware of La Crosse Neuroinvasive Disease, and going into areas where this actually is, we are wearing repellent and treating it pretty seriously as a family,” Trout Fryxell, said.

Copyright 2023 WYSO. To see more, visit https://www.wyso.org.

Health, Science & Environment Ohio NewsLa Crosse Virusmosquito
Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.