Michigan health officials urge 'protect yourself' from mosquito bites this fall

Health officials warn of EEE, West Nile Virus

Mosquito (Pixlr)

With seven cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) confirmed in Michigan, three of which are deadly cases, health officials are urging residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites this fall. 

The Oakland County Health Division said while no cases of EEE have been reported in Oakland County, the county does have five mosquito pools and a blood donor who tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV).

County health officials said mosquito-borne diseases, such as EEE and WNV, are seasonal and flare up in the warm summer months and continue into the fall.

"Protect yourself from mosquito bites until the first hard frost of the year," said Leigh-Anne Stafford,
health officer for Oakland County. "Whether you are at home or an outdoor event, there are simple
steps that residents can take to reduce their risk of disease."

The health division offers these mosquito bite prevention tips:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for safety and effectiveness, and will contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol as the active ingredient. Repellents containing a higher percentage of the active ingredient typically provide longer-lasting protection. Always follow the product label instructions.
    • Be careful using repellent on the hands of children as it may irritate the eyes and mouth.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Limit outdoor activity from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Maintain window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Do not prop open doors.
  • 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.

West Bloomfield is spraying fields

The West Bloomfield School District said it is being proactive in attempts to mitigate any potential exposure to the mosquito-borne diseases by applying a mosquito treatment in the areas surrounding the practice and playing fields of West Bloomfield High School. The school district has contracted with Mosquito Joe to apply this preventative treatment on Friday, Sept. 20.

According to the district, the factors contributing to this decision include the following:

  • Elementary recess takes place during the day when the risk is lowest.
  • Nearly all practices take place immediately after school during daylight hours.
  • Many outdoor athletic contests take place on hard surfaces or artificial turf fields, a factor known to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and thereby reducing the risk of contact.

The dangers of EEE

According to health officials, EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33 percent fatality rate in people who become ill. People can be infected with EEE from the bite of a mosquito carrying the viruses. Persons younger than age 15 and over age 50 are at greatest risk of severe disease following infection.

READ MORE: Michigan reports 3 EEE-related deaths in worst outbreak in more than decade

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.

Horse, deer cases

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in addition to the human cases, as of Sept. 16 nine cases of EEE in horses had been confirmed in Barry, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, and St. Joseph counties. None of the horses were vaccinated against EEE and all animals have died, the health department said. There is an EEE vaccine available for horses, but not for people.

Moreover, five deer in Barry, Cass, Genesee, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties have been confirmed with EEE infection and were euthanized due to the severity of their disease symptoms.

About West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus. Mosquitoes are infected with the virus by biting an infected bird. The virus is then spread to humans through the bite of the infected mosquito. Most people who are infected with the virus have either no symptoms or experience a mild illness such as fever, headache, and body aches. However, in some individuals, a more serious disease-causing inflammation and swelling of the brain can develop.

People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms of West Nile Virus if they do get sick.

Michigan man dies from mosquito-borne disease EEE -- watch his story:

Michigan health officials say there are four new cases of the mosquito-borne disease Eastern equine encephalitis, with two additional deaths reported in southwest Michigan.

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.