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Michigan health officials discourage evening outdoor events as EEE spreads

The recommendation applies to counties with confirmed EEE cases, including Clare, Isabella and Oakland
Photo: CDC / James Gathany
Photo: CDC / James Gathany(WNDU)
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - State health officials are urging some counties to postpone, reschedule or cancel outdoor activities at or after dusk due to an increase in Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

The recommendation from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued Friday includes evening sports practices and games. It applies to counties were the illness is present this year, including Clare, Isabella and Oakland.

A similar advisory from state health officials last fall led to some high school athletic events starting earlier.

The recommendation continues until the state sees two hard frosts this fall, which generally occurs around mid-October.

As of Thursday, 19 horses in nine Michigan counties were diagnosed with EEE and more animals were being investigated to see if they contracted the illness. That is twice as many as the same time last fall.

No human cases of EEE have been diagnosed in Michigan so far in 2020. There were 10 confirmed human EEE cases resulting in six deaths last year statewide.

“As animal cases continue to grow, the risks to people increase as well,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “People get EEE the same way horses do – from the bite of an infected mosquito – so a case in a horse means people in that area are also at risk."

Symptoms of EEE include a sudden onset of fever, chills and body aches, along with a headache, disorientation, tremors and seizures. Paralysis and death are possible in the most serious cases.

The illness has a 33% fatality rate among humans and a 90% fatality rate for horses. There is a vaccine available for horses but not for humans.

Khaldun said limiting exposure to mosquitoes outdoors, especially around dusk, is the best way to avoid EEE.

Residents are urged to follow common measures to avoid mosquitoes and any illnesses they may be carrying:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors.
  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET or another product approved by the EPA.
  • Make sure doors and windows have screens without screens or tears.
  • Eliminate areas of standing water, such as bird baths, unused swimming pools, wading pools, old tires and any other object holding water.

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