Case of rare mosquito-borne EEE virus suspected in Michigan

Possible case reported in Barry County

Michigan health officials this week reported a suspected human case of the dangerous mosquito-borne illness Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.

The possible case was reported in a Barry County resident, according to a news release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

“Preliminary test results indicate the patient has EEE and confirmatory testing is expected to be completed by the end of the week at the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories,” officials said. “No additional information will be provided on this individual.”

The possible human case “is in addition to 22 confirmed cases in horses from 10 counties” and nine confirmed cases of the West Nile virus, officials said when urging Michiganders to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

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“This suspected EEE case in a Michigan resident shows this is an ongoing threat to the health and safety of Michiganders and calls for continued actions to prevent exposure, including aerial treatment,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, in a statement.

“MDHHS continues to encourage local officials in the affected counties to consider postponing, rescheduling or canceling outdoor activities occurring at or after dusk, particularly those involving children to reduce the potential for people to be bitten by mosquitoes,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, describes EEE as “one of a group of mosquito-transmitted viruses that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).”

Symptoms typically appear about four to 10 days after a bite, with severe cases progressing to encephalitis. Patients may experience high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, and lack of energy.

Approximately one-third of patients who contract EEE will die; there is no specific treatment for the virus.

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“EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33 percent fatality rate in people who become ill and a 90 percent fatality rate in horses that become ill. People can be infected with EEE and other mosquito-borne diseases from the bite of a mosquito carrying the viruses,” officials said in the news release.

The only way to protect against the virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The MDHHS offers the following tips:

  • 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