Mosquito-Carrying Diseases May Threaten Kids

West Nile virus and La Crosse virus dominate infections caused by mosquitoes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Some viruses and bacteria travel through the air. Others travel in bugs and ticks — but how many of these reach children?

Among the infections that attack the nervous system, La Crosse virus and West Nile virus were the most common in children, a recent study found.

Both of these diseases are carried in mosquitoes. They can cause death, but very few children died.

Together, these viruses were responsible for all but four percent of the infections in children's nervous systems caused by an insect-carried germ.

"Protect yourself from mosquito bites with repellent."

The study, led by James Gaensbauer, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, looked at children's infections caused by insects and ticks from 2003 through 2012.

The researchers analyzed data from ArboNET, a national surveillance system that stores information reported by state health departments.

The reported information deals with any kind of illness that can be transmitted by an arthropod. Arthropods includes insects, spiders, ticks and related critters.

This study specifically focused on "neuro-invasive" infections in those under age 18.

A neuro-invasive infection attacks the nervous system. These infections include meningitis, encephalitis and paralysis.

The researchers identified 1,217 cases of neuro-invasive infections carried by bugs and ticks. Among these, 22 children died.

The two most common diseases were La Crosse virus and West Nile virus.

Between 2003 and 2012, there were 665 cases of La Crosse virus, which was 55 percent of the total cases. Most of these occurred in younger children

West Nile virus comprised 505 cases, of 41 percent of the total. This infection was more common in older children and teens.

Another more serious but less common virus found in 2 percent of the cases (30 total) was Eastern equine encephalitis virus, which resulted in 10 children's deaths.

Decreasing the infections and deaths from these diseases depends on controlling the mosquitoes, "personal protection to reduce mosquito and tick bites, and blood donor screening," the authors concluded.

The study was published August 11 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 10, 2014
Last Updated:
August 11, 2014