Health Officials Confirm New Human Case Of EEE In Michigan

It's the first case in Calhoun County

WWJ News
September 20, 2019 - 6:11 pm
Mosquito biting
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LANSING (WWJ) - Michigan health officials are reporting another confirmed human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the state, this time in Calhoun County.

The patient, whose condition is not known at this time, is an adult, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

The department said Friday that this is the first case of the dangerous mosquito-borne illness in Calhoun County, raising some concerns. 

In all, eight cases of EEE have now been confirmed in residents of Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties. Three of the people infected have died

“The increasing geographic spread and increasing number of EEE cases in humans and animals indicate that the risk for EEE is ongoing,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “We continue to urge Michiganders to protect themselves against mosquito bites until the first hard frost.”

EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. with a 33 percent fatality rate in people who become ill.

In addition to the human cases, testing at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has recently identified EEE in one animal each in Calhoun, Jackson and Montcalm counties, officials also reported Riday. As of Sept. 20, EEE has been confirmed in 21 animals from 11 counties: Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, Montcalm, St. Joseph, and Van Buren; with additional animal cases are under investigation. 

People can be infected with EEE from the bite of a mosquito carrying the viruses, with people under age 15 or over 50 at greatest risk of severe disease following infection.

With that in mind, MDHHS is encouraging local officials in the affected counties to consider postponing, rescheduling or canceling outdoor activities occurring at or after dusk, particularly activities that involve children such as late evening sports practices or games or outdoor music practices.

Meanwhile, all Michigan residents are urged to follow 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, 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, kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas. 

Health officials note that while there is an EEE vaccine available for horses, there is not one for people. 

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 in some cases. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should visit their physician’s office.

Those sickened but not killed by the virus include a Kalamazoo-area teen who suffered severe brain swelling but is making some progress in her therapy at a rehab hospital, according to her mother on Facebook.

Learn more about eastern equine encephalitis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) AT THIS LINK