Mosquito-borne EEE virus: Fast facts
Even as Michigan health officials announced Tuesday that they have completed an aerial pesticide spraying program on 557,000 acres of land in 14 counties to combat the mosquito-borne virus Eastern equine encephalitis, the number of human and animal cases in the state continues to grow.
A new human case of the rare but dangerous virus also known as EEE or Triple E was confirmed in Cass County on Tuesday and five new animal cases were identified in horses in Jackson, Kent and Tuscola counties, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
That brings the total number of people in Michigan with confirmed EEE illnesses to 10 this year. In an average year, there are seven cases of EEE nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those sickened by the virus in Michigan were from Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties. Of them, four people have died.
EEE is one of the deadliest mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33% fatality rate in people who become ill. It leaves many survivors with physical and mental disabilities.
The virus also has been confirmed in 39 animals from the following 16 counties: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph, Tuscola and Van Buren.
All 16 of those counties are considered high risk for EEE, which is spread to humans and animals through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
“In one year, we have had more human EEE cases confirmed than in the past decade,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS, in a news release. “We chose to conduct aerial treatment to protect the health and safety of Michiganders. We also continue to urge communities and residents to take precautions against mosquito bites as the risk of EEE remains until the first hard frost.”
Health officials urge people in the high-risk counties to cancel or postpone outdoor events that occur between dusk and dawn, or move them inside, including sports events, concerts and performances, especially if they involve children.
Children under age 15 and people older than age 50 are at greatest risk for developing severe illness from the EEE virus.
Although the weather is beginning to cool down, the mosquitoes that spread EEE are still active. The MDHHS reported that mosquitoes were caught in traps set Oct. 1 in southwestern Michigan.
For that reason, they say residents should continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites by:
- Staying indoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes that carry the EEE virus are most active.
- Applying 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.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
- Maintaining window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
- Emptying water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
- Using nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
Health officials say the most recent cases of EEE — in the person from Cass County and five horses from Jackson, Tuscola and Kent counties — were all sickened before the aerial pesticide spraying program began on Sept. 30.
Treatment was conducted in portions of Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph, Van Buren and Washtenaw counties. In addition, Fort Custer Training Center, which is in both Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties, was treated.
Although EEE is now confirmed in an animal in Tuscola County, Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the MDHHS, said there are no plans to spray pesticides there.
Treatment is most effective when nighttime temperatures are warmer than 50 degrees. The forecast calls for cooler overnight temperatures in the days ahead.
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
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