IONIA COUNTY, Mich. — The Ionia County Health Department is urging residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
The warning comes after a deer was infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Kent County near the border with Ionia County.
The Ionia County Health Department says there are currently no confirmed human or animal cases of EEE in Ionia County.
The Ionia County Health Department says Michigan is experiencing the worst EEE outbreak in more than a decade. The health department said the virus is rare, but deadly and is carried by mosquitoes that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
The health department said persons under the age of 15 and over the age of 50 are at the greatest risk of severe disease following infection and should take extra measure to ensure that they are not bitten by mosquitoes.
The health department said EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. with a 33% fatality rate in people who become ill, and a 90% fatality rate in horses that become ill.
The health department said signs of EEE include sudden onset fever, chills and body and joint aches.
EEE can develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis, according to the health department, and permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases.
The health department says if you develop any of these signs you should seek medical attention immediately.
The two mosquito species that carry EEE are most active from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to the health department.
The health department says all Michigan residents can stay healthy by following these steps to avoid mosquito bites:
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered product, to exposed skin or clothing when outdoors, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
• Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
• Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires, or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
• Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
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