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Two elderly people infected with encephalitis

September 25, 1997

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Two elderly people have been diagnosed with encephalitis in the first confirmed human cases in Florida since a scare over the mosquito-borne disease in August forced the nighttime shutdown of water parks, pools and football games.

Tests came back positive Thursday for an 82-year-old Brevard County man on the state’s Atlantic Coast and a 71-year-old woman from Lee County on the Gulf Coast.

Both people were hospitalized and are recovering.

``Although these are the first human cases we have seen this year, it is not unexpected,″ said James Howell, secretary of the state Health Department. ``The more people take it upon themselves to guard against mosquito contact, the less chance there is going to be of additional human infection.″

The elderly and very young are most susceptible to St. Louis encephalitis, which causes flu-like symptoms that can lead to coma and death. The last major outbreak of encephalitis in Florida occurred in 1990. It killed 11 people and caused 223 people to become sick.

Medical alerts were issued in four Florida counties last month after the disease showed up in chickens that are used specifically by scientists to monitor the presence of encephalitis in mosquitoes.

Just before the busy Labor Day weekend, Walt Disney World and other Orlando attractions and hotels began closing their water parks and pools before dusk. The Disney park also canceled evening campfires and hayrides.

Brevard County schools also canceled nighttime activities, including Friday night high school football games.

Many of the measures remain in effect.

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