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Health officials urge mosquito precautions

MONTGOMERY (AP) — State health officials Monday urged that precautions be taken against mosquitoes after three people and a number of animals in Alabama tested positive this summer for mosquito-borne diseases.

West Nile

The Alabama Department of Public Health said in a statement Monday that between late June and the end of July, two people in Alabama were infected with West Nile encephalitis, including an elderly victim who died. A third person was infected by West Nile virus that caused only mild symptoms.

The infected people lived in Chambers, Marshall and Mobile counties, but health officials did not disclose in which county the death occurred or provide more details.

The confirmed cases were reported between June 26 and July 31, which is earlier than usual, said state epidemiologist Dr. J.P. Lofgren. He said the season for mosquito-borne viruses generally runs from August through October.

"It may portend a worse year for us this year, but there's no way to predict," Lofgren said.

"This is an illustration of the fact that West Nile could be spread around any year and it's fairly spread out, so people need to take precautions."

Health officials said people should wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothes and should wear long sleeves and pants when possible.

Applying repellents on clothes or exposed skin and using citronella candles and repellents can also help.

Outdoor activity

It is also a good idea to avoid outdoor activity during peak mosquito hours at dawn and dusk and to make sure not to leave standing water around where mosquitoes can breed.

In addition to the human infections, a horse in Washington County died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Tests showed that horses in Elmore and Escambia counties and chickens in Baldwin and Mobile counties also were exposed to the virus.

Testing of mosquitoes and dead birds has found a case of West Nile virus in a raptor in Lee County.

Children under 15 and people over 50 are at increased risk and are more susceptible to encephalitis or serious infection.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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