Health Officials Report 6th Death In Michigan From EEE Virus

WWJ News
November 18, 2019 - 5:16 pm

(WWJ) A sixth person has died from the mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, better known as EEE, in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which reported the death on Monday, said the person was a Berrien County resident. No further information about the person was released. 

There have been 10 cases of EEE this year in Michigan, according to MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin. She said that number includes the six fatalities.

The human cases in 2019 were in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties. In addition, EEE was confirmed in 40 animals from 16 counties: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph, Tuscola and Van Buren.

"We haven't had this many cases in a decade combined," Sutfin told WWJ's Jason Scott. "So this is a very severe year for Eastern Equine Encephalitis in our state."

Monday's news comes just a few days after Berrien County health officials said the frigid temperatures and snow had killed the infected mosquitos, and with them the risk of EEE. 

Sutfin agrees with that determination. "We are definitely in the cold season, well below 50 degrees, so we are not worried about mosquito activity at this time."

As far as if EEE will return to Michigan in force in 2020, there's really no way to know. 

"We don't know a lot about of this happens. We know that every decade or so we do seem to see the cases crop up in our state," Sutfin said. "We do know that there's some combination of weather -- as far as rain and heat -- but there's no set, you know, prescription for it where we can look and see it's going to be a bad year for it and prepare."

Health officials warned that EEE is deadliest mosquito-borne illness in the U.S., killing an estimated 33 percent of people who are infected. Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches which can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur.