Florida Toddler Dies of EEE

A Florida toddler has died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which is striking with surprising frequency this summer.

The 16-month-old lived in Pasco County, but you may not realize there have been three people infected around here and alerts are up in Leon, Gadsden and Suwannee Counties.

Most parents in a Tallahassee park had no idea there was an Eastern Equine Encephalitis alert issued in our area, and word of a toddler dying from it in Pasco County was disconcerting.

Megan Sgan, a mother of two, says, "It's scary. You want to protect your kids from everything and if there's something you can't see and you can't protect them from it, it's very frightening."

Already this year, the Department of Health reports that five Floridians have been diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, called EEE for short, including people in Leon, Gadsden and Suwannee Counties.

Dr. Marjorie Kirsch, the medical director for the Leon County Health Department, says, "Whenever there is a human case we do put out a medical alert because just statistically, if there's enough EEE in the community for a human to become symptomatic and recognize it, then there's probably quite a bit of it out there."

Sentinel chickens in Leon County have tested positive for EEE as recently as September 2, prompting more mosquito eradication.

As sad as parents were to hear about a toddler dying of EEE, they say it's tough to protect your children from something like that.

Jennifer Taylor, a mother of three, says, "We try to, like I said, be as safe as we can anyway and I don't think I would keep them inside for the sake of worrying about that."

Experts say though Eastern Equine Encephalitis is on the upswing in the past five years, it's still quite rare.

The best way to protect yourself from it, as with any mosquito-borne disease, is to use repellant, avoid being outdoors between dawn and dusk, and get rid of any standing water in your yard.