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Union County boy died from LaCrosse Encephalitis, according to family

11:47 PM, Jul 20, 2012   |    comments
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The family of a 6-year-old boy who died from a rare mosquito-contracted illness said they want to send a message to all parents.

"People should know where mosquitoes are at, and it may save your own child's life," said Judy Overholt, the aunt of Skyler Cooper. Several family members told 10News the Union County boy died at East Tennessee Children's Hospital over the weekend of LaCrosse Encephalitis, or LAC.

State Department of Health confirmed the LaCrosse Encephalitis death in East Tennessee.

"He started out with a little bit of a fever, and he started vomiting. After that, he had a seizure," Overholt described her nephew's symptoms, before getting emergency care.

Cooper's death is rare, according to the Center for Disease Control. On their website, less than 1% of all cases of LAC end fatally.  The illness mostly affects children or teenagers. 

However, there are more cases coming to East Tennessee, according to local doctors.

"The virus was named for LaCrosse, WI in the 1960s. Since then, it has been migrating to the southeast and we're getting more of these cases every year," said ETCH Director of Emergency Dr. Ryan Redman.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association, 13 states east of the Mississippi River have had reported cases of LAC, including Tennessee.

Additionally, the Knox County Health Department said cases, like Cooper's, are rare in mid-July. The disease is spread through treehole mosquitoes, Knox County Director of Environmental Health Ronnie Nease added.

"We will run every year from zero to 6 to 10 (LAC) cases a year, it depends," said Nease.

The state Department of Heath reported 12 cases in 2011. Doctors said while it's rare, and the chances of dying from it are even more scarce, parents still need to be aware.

"There's no specific treatment for LaCrosse Encephalitis, or treatment for the LaCrosse Virus, so the best case is prevention," Dr. Redman added.

Prevention is what Judy Overholt said could have saved her nephew's life.

"Out of his death, I hope this would save another child," Overholt said.

That prevention: wear deet and get rid of standing water.

Of course, while there is no specific treatment for LAC, if your child has the signs of a fever, nausea, and fatigue -- call a doctor immediately.

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