Spanish Fort football fans advised to take bug spray to game due to deadly EEE virus
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Spanish Fort football fans advised to take bug spray to game due to deadly EEE virus

Jun 07, 2024

Vector control experts are urging Spanish Fort residents to take precaution after rare human infections of a deadly mosquito-borne virus have been reported this month. (James Gathany/CDC via AP, File)

Two confirmations of deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) within the same neighborhood in Spanish Fort is prompting a vector control specialist to warn residents to take immediate precautions.

And that includes during tonight’s football game between Fairhope and Spanish Fort in Spanish Fort.

“Attendees of the football game should definitely take precautions, wear loose clothing, long sleeves and pants and repellant, shoes with socks,” said Caroline Efstathion, regional director of Mosquito Control Services LLC with Vector Disease Control International (VDCI), which is working in Spanish Fort to eradicate the mosquitos that could be carrying EEE, the same virus that killed a 7-year-old girl earlier this month and hospitalized a man.

She also recommended people use EPA-approved mosquito repellant.

It could be a warning, with temperatures in the upper 90s, that is likely to go unheeded. Pictures of last weekend’s home football between Spanish Fort and St. Michael’s high schools showed a student section with hardly anyone wearing long clothing.

“I think this needs to be a priority,” Efstathion said. “People need to be heeding the warnings of the Health Department.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health, in a news release on Monday, urged people to do the same things that Efstathion is asking: Use bug spray, and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.

“I’ve never heard of two cases so close together at the same time,” she said. “It tells me the virus is circulating at a high level. To have two human cases that went neuro invasive is pretty much unheard of.”

VCDI was hired earlier this week by the Spanish Fort City Council to administer mosquito abatement after the city received confirmation on Friday about the two EEE confirmations.

“We will have spray trucks out tonight,” said Efstathion. “We’ve signed a contract (with Spanish Fort) for the rest of the year and they said they will have a contract with us again next year. We will continue to do surveillance throughout the area and will keep an extra eye out on the hot spots.”

A case of a horse contracting EEE also came out on Wednesday, through a news release issued by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. That release only said that the infected horse was discovered in Baldwin County, and called any human cases a rarity with “only a few cases reported in the United States each year.” The agency’s release did not mention the two cases in Spanish Fort.

“It has a 30 percent mortality rate which is very high for a virus,” said Efstathion. “This is the one that scares me the most. I was in Brazil when the Zika outbreak happened (in 2016) and nothing scares me more than EEE.”

She added, “It is hot and people are outside but they need to be wearing loose-fitting and long pants, shoes and socks. People need shoes and socks on when walking outside.”

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