A Michigan woman claims her father died of the rare Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus. If confirmed, his death would mark the second in the state and the fourth in the nation so far this year.
Amy Wright said her father Guy Bowen, 63, died Saturday from complications of the mosquito-borne virus. His death came roughly a week after she found him unresponsive in his home.
After he was rushed to a local hospital, doctors worked to find what was sickening Bowen, who was a father to three children and a grandfather to six, Wright told WWMT.
“They had done MRIs to see if he had a stroke. They had taken samples of spinal fluid to then test, and that came back negative of anything,” she told the news station. “Seven days later, they decided the best thing to do was take another sample and hope that antibodies had started to form to show them what kind of virus he was in fact fighting.”
“My dad was very independent. He didn’t ask for help from people. He wanted to do things himself, and he was too proud to want a life like that."
Preliminary tests reportedly confirmed Bowen was suffering from EEE. However, his case has not yet been confirmed by state health or federal health officials, per WWMT.
Eventually, Wright said, she and her family made the decision to take her father off of life support.
“My dad was very independent. He didn’t ask for help from people. He wanted to do things himself, and he was too proud to want a life like that,” she said.
The Kalamazoo County Government confirmed the first death from EEE in Michigan this year in a Sept. 6 statement.
EEE, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a rare disease spread by infected mosquitoes. EEE “is one of a group of mosquito-transmitted viruses that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis),” the federal health agency says.
EEE is more common in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, though the CDC said some cases have been reported in the Great Lakes area. It’s rare — only five to 10 cases are typically reported each year in the U.S.
Symptoms of EEE usually appear four to 10 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Severe cases of the virus “begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting,” said the CDC, which noted, “the illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma.”
One-third of those infected with EEE virus die; survivors typically have “mild to severe brain damage.” There’s no specific treatment for the infection.
Aside from the death confirmed in Michigan, Rhode Island officials recently announced an EEE death, which marked the first in the state since 2007. Additionally, a Massachusetts woman died of EEE in August.