Michigan residents reminded to protect against mosquito bites for potentially fatal EEE virus

Posted at 9:21 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 06:41:26-04

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reminding residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites following the confirmation of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the state.

MDHHS says as of Aug. 12, two cases of EEE have been confirmed in horses in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties. Neither horse was vaccinated against EEE and both animals have died. There is an EEE vaccine available for horses, but not people.

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

MDHHS says EEE is the one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. with a 33 percent fatality rate among humans who become ill and a 90 percent fatality rate among horses that become ill.

People can be infected with EEE from the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus, MDHHS says. The disease is not spread by horse-to-horse or horse-to-human contact. In humans, signs include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches. EEE infection can develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. In some cases, permanent brain damage, coma and death could occur.

MDHHS has these steps to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
  • 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.