Animals with Eastern Equine Encephalitis found in Genesee, Lapeer counties

Photo: CDC / James Gathany
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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) (9/17/2019) - State health officials are urging residents of Genesee and Lapeer counties to take extra precautions against mosquitoes after animals with Eastern Equine Encephalitis were euthanized.

A deer in Genesee County and a horse in Lapeer County signal an increase in EEE activity in Michigan, which has sickened seven people and led to three deaths.

All of the human cases have occurred in five Southwest Michigan counties: Barry, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren.

Nine unvaccinated horses Barry, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, and St. Joseph counties contracted EEE, along with five deer found in Barry, Cass, Genesee, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties.

The deer all were euthanized due to the severity of their illnesses.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is the most dangerous mosquito-borne illness with a 33 percent fatality rate among humans. Children younger than 15 and adults older than 50 are at the greatest risk.

As a result of EEE activity spreading to more counties, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is advising residents and organizations to cancel, postpone or reschedule any outdoor activity after dusk -- especially if they involve children.

That includes sports practices, games and outdoor music practices. The precautions should continue until a hard frost occurs, which will kill off most mosquitoes.

“Michigan is currently experiencing its worst Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offered the following tips for how people can protect themselves:

• Limit outdoor activities or take precautions to avoid biting when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.

• Apply an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 according to label instructions. Only use products that are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

• When outdoors wear socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts.

• Make sure windows and doors have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings.

• Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water found in birdbaths, wading pools, and old tires.

Symptoms of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches that can progress to a severe encephalitis. That can result in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

Permanent brain damage, comas and death are possible in the most severe cases. Anyone experiencing EEE symptoms should see a physician as soon as possible.