IONIA COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — Michigan residents are being advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites after learning that another horse has been infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Michigan is experiencing an increase in animal cases of EEE, a rare but deadly virus carried by mosquitoes that can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
As of Sept. 10, 19 cases of EEE have been found among horses across eight Michigan counties.
People younger than age 15 and older than age 50 are at greatest risk of severe disease following infection and should take extra measures to ensure they are not bitten by mosquitoes.
State health officials plan to start aerial sprays this week to kill mosquitoes and prevent them from infecting people.
The spray will start Wednesday evening, weather permitting, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Monday. It will cover 10 counties where EEE has already been found in horses this year.
The state conducted aerial mosquito treatments last year and is using the same product this time around — Merus 3.0. The ultra-low volume aerosol kills mosquitoes on contact.
The state says there weren’t any adverse health effects to people as a result of last year’s sprays. Those who are sensitive to the insecticide pyrethrins should stay inside so they aren’t exposed.
The few mosquito species that carry EEE are most active from dusk until dawn. When possible, residents should avoid outdoor activities during this time.
EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33% fatality rate in people who become ill and a 90% fatality rate in horses that become ill. Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills and body and joint aches. EEE can develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases. If you develop any of these signs seek medical attention immediately.
Infections in humans while dangerous, are rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report an average of 11 human cases of EEE in the United States per year.
From 2010 to 2019, the majority of cases have been in Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, New York and North Carolina.
Freshwater hardwood swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and the Great Lakes region have been linked to EEE virus transmission.
To avoid mosquito bites, residents should follow these steps:
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered product, to exposed skin or clothing when outdoors, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
• 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.
See more about the EEE virus from the CDC website.