No word from CDC on fatality

Published 8:08 am Monday, August 4, 2003

By By Bill Crist Special to the Advance
Escambia County health officials have determined what did not kill an Escambia County resident last week, but still have not received test results that confirm what did.
Tests have ruled out West Nile Virus as the cause, which has lead officials to look in another direction.
According to Vaniessa Cain Rivera, mother of Emilio Ryan Rivera, 8, of Brewton, doctors told the family that Emilio had been bitten by a mosquito which may have ultimately led to his death. Emilio Rivera was initially treated at D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital before transferring to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola, where he died on July 26.
Dr. Dan Raulerson, Escambia County Medical Examiner said that a lab work from the local victim had been sent to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta so that a cause of death could be determined. He did confirm that viral encephalitis was the cause of death, but that tests would determine what type of virus had been contracted. Raulerson said there are many causes for viral encephalitis.
Test results were expected this
week, but Ricky Elliott, local environmentalist with the Alabama Dept. of Public Health, said the CDC will be running additional tests beginning on Monday and that results from those tests are expected next Friday.
According to Elliott, the symptoms the victim displayed were consistent with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, (EEE) a mosquito-borne virus that has been in existence here for some time, and can be much more fatal than West Nile Virus. However, the results have not confirmed the cause of death.
Public health officials have declined to identify the local victim.
Dr. John Mosely Hayes, epidemiologist with the Alabama Dept. of Public Health confirmed that test results on two horses in Escambia County came back positive for EEE. Those horses were euthanized in July.
On Thursday, Vaniessa Rivera said that she hoped people in Brewton would take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
"I just want to make sure that parents protect their kids," she said. "I don't want them to have to go through something like this."
According to the CDC Web site, symptoms of EEE range from flu-like illness to frank encephalitis, coma and death. There have been 153 confirmed cases in the United States since 1964.
There is no licensed vaccine or effective therapeutic drug for humans, the CDC site said. There is a vaccine that can be given to horses to prevent infection, though.
In 2002, Alabama experienced 49 cases of West Nile Virus, including three fatalities.
Additional information about the two viruses is available on the Alabama Dept. of Public Health Web site at

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