About La Crosse Encephalitis (LACE)
Each summer in East Tennessee, mosquitoes transmit La Crosse virus to humans, causing dozens of people to be diagnosed with La Crosse virus infections. These infections primarily occur in children under the age of 16, with many infected being asymptomatic, but the infections can cause flu-like symptoms in others (e.g., fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue) for as long as 15 days.
In severe cases, La Crosse virus infections can lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and the resulting disease is called La Crosse Encephalitis (LACE). In the short-term LACE can cause seizures, comas, and paralysis; severe LACE cases can result in long-term cognitive disorders and, rarely, lead to death.
LACE cases often occur in rural areas, requiring families to travel long distances to specialized hospitals to acquire treatment for their children. The combination of short-term treatment costs, long-term costs of cognitive rehabilitation, and the emotional toll caused by the illness of a loved one results in severe burdens for affected families.
You can learn more about LACE here: https://www.cdc.gov/lac/index.html
Prevention: Preventing the Bite of an Infected Mosquito
Because there is no preventive treatment or cure for LACE, the best way to reduce the impact of this disease is to prevent infections from ever occurring. This can accomplished by preventing the bites of infected mosquitoes through the reduction of mosquito habitats around the household and by applying mosquito repellents. Unfortunately, most at-risk families are unaware of LACE, and therefore they do not realize that they should be taking preventive measures.
You can choose which mosquito repellent is best for you by visiting this website: FindRepellent
Our Work WITH the Community
A further challenge is that we have a limited understanding of when and where LACE cases are likely to occur. Without a robust scientific capability to predict the time and location of LACE cases, we cannot apply targeted mosquito control efforts and information campaigns to prevent diseases in areas with the highest risk. MEGA:BITESS Academy is designed to address the lack of awareness about LACE in East Tennessee communities and to improve our knowledge of the disease so that we can design programs to reduce the burden created by this disease in the future.
MEGA:BITESS Academy is a grassroots effort based at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to create a network of scientists, educators, and other community members in the LACE-endemic region of East Tennessee. Through this cooperative effort, we hope to significantly increase awareness of La Crosse encephalitis in this high-risk area and to conduct important scientific investigations of LACE and its mosquito vectors. (Not all mosquito species can transmit La Crosse virus.) Specifically, we aim to identify locations where La Crosse virus is actively being transmitted so that we may investigate approaches to reduce the likelihood of viral transmission.
As a part of this effort, we are interested in working with East Tennessee families that have been impacted by La Crosse encephalitis. If you are a parent or guardian of a child who has been diagnosed with LACE and are interested in joining our network, please contact the MEGA:BITESS project director, Dr. Becky Trout Fryxell, by sending an email (rfryxell AT utk.edu) or visit her UT EPP website here.