Eastern Equine Encephalitis detected in Michigan for first time this season

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LANSING (WJRT) (8/16/2019) - The potentially deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been detected in Michigan for the first time this season.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this week that two horses in St. Joseph and Kalamazoo counties died of the mosquito-borne illness.

Health officials say mosquitoes also can spread the illness to humans.

“These equine deaths indicate that EEE virus activity is increasing and provides warning that human cases could also occur,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “Michigan residents are urged to take precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreaks have been reported in Southwest Michigan in the 1980s, mid-1990s and 2010. The illness has a 33 percent fatality rate among humans and 90 percent fatality rate for horses.

Symptoms in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches. The illness can intensify into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends horse owners contact their veterinarians about the EEE vaccine.

Meanwhile, West Nile Virus remains a concern in Michigan with eight birds and 12 mosquito pools showing signs of the illness. Some of the birds were found in Saginaw and Bay counties.

People are urged to take the following precautions against mosquitoes:

-- Apply insect repellents containing DEET or another EPA-approved product on exposed skin while outdoors.
-- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
-- Maintain window and door screens to help keep mosquitoes outside.
-- Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, kiddie pools, old tires or areas where puddles are found.
-- Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

Mosquito-borne illnesses will be a concern in Michigan until overnight temperatures consistently drop below freezing this fall.