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When the virus enters the blood stream, it may localize in the brain causing inflammation of the brain cells and surrounding membranes. The brain tissue swells and can cause destruction of nerve cells, bleeding within the brain, and brain damage.
To contract SLE, you have to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Although the percentage of people who are bitten by an infected mosquito and actually get SLE is low, proper precautions should still taken in areas where culex genus mosquitoes live. Increased awareness and prevention methods are key to helping keep the number of SLE cases to a minimum.
Since 1968, the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department's Mosquito Control Program has been actively involved in SLE surveillance by measuring antibodies to the virus in the blood of wild birds and chickens. These animals serve as a reservoir for the St. Louis encephalitis virus. Positive antibody testing serves as an early warning signal.
Although mosquito control is an important means of decreasing transmission of SLE to humans, personal protective measures are also important. Individuals can help by flushing any standing water in birdbaths, small wading pools, and pets' water bowls, and by adding fresh water daily. This will decrease the potential for mosquito breeding sites.
Although the majority of the cases reported during the outbreak were older adults, young children should not be considered low-risk, since they are a target population by being outdoors frequently.
Symptoms that are serious enough to cause emergency medical attention may also include loss of consciousness, poor responsiveness, coma, seizures, muscle weakness or paralysis, sudden severe dementia, and memory loss (either short term or long term).
Remember, not all people with SLE develop the same symptoms, if any.
Additionally, a cranial MRI or a CT scan of the head may be used to determine the presence or absence of internal bleeding or edema.
If the disease has progressed to a later stage, hospitalization may be necessary in some cases. Rest, nutrition, and plenty of fluids allows the body to fight the infection. Emotional support may also be helpful. If brain function is severely affected, physical therapy and speech therapy may be necessary after the acute illness is controlled.
You can decrease your chances of contracting St. Louis encephalitis by following some simple precautions: