4th Michigan resident dies from mosquito-borne EEE

Calhoun County resident dies

CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. – A fourth Michigan resident has died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

The victim was a resident of Calhoun County.

EEE has been confirmed in nine people in Michigan in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

Thirty-three animals from Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties have also had EEE.

What is EEE?

  • Eastern equine encephalitis is a disease caused by a virus spread from infected mosquitos that can cause inflammation of the brain.
    • Viruses spread by mosquitos are referred to as arboviruses. West Nile is another kind of arbovirus.
  • EEE virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Transmission does not occur directly from person to person.
    • Only about 4-5% of human EEEV infections result in EEE.
  • It takes 4 to 10 days after the bite from an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE.
  • Symptoms include: sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches, severe encephalitis, headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis.
    • People who experience symptoms are urged to see a doctor as soon as possible. Those infected could get permanent brain damage, go into a coma, or die.
  • The virus is built up in a particular area through an amplification cycle:
    • Infected mosquitos feed on birds, infecting them in the process.
    • Uninfected mosquitos then feed on infected birds and become infected themselves.
  • EEE is typically found along the East Coast and Gulf Coast, along with the Great Lakes region.
  • Once an area has a hard frost, mosquito activity dies down and the virus goes dormant until spring.
  • A vaccine has been developed for horses, but no human vaccine is available.
  • In the US, an average of 7 human cases of EEE are reported annually.
  • The disease kills one-third of patients and leaves 80% of survivors with mild to severe brain damage.
  • Read more: Eastern Equine Encephalitis (CDC)

EEE in Michigan

  • As of Sunday, EEE was confirmed in nine people and three have died in six counties.
    • Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties
  • Cases have also been confirmed in 30 animals from 15 counties.
    • Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties
  • Aerial treatments for several counties were scheduled for Sunday night, but were postponed due to weather.
    • Areas of Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties were set for treatment Monday night. A small part of northern Washtenaw County will also be treated.
  • Aerial spraying is used to control and reduce the number of mosquitos and reduce the chances for a virus to spread.
    • Airplanes spray very low volumes of adulticide or larvicide in areas where mosquitos are spreading viruses.
    • Larvicides kill larvae that hatch from eggs within 1-4 days.
    • Adulticides kill adult mosquitos immediately.
    • Read more: What You Need to Know About Aerial Spraying

How to protect yourself from EEE

  • Apply insect repellents.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts.
  • Use window and door screens.
  • Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by emptying water from buckets, kiddie pools and tires.

Parts of nation see worst outbreak...in more than a half-century [article]

  • Three have died in Michigan, three in Massachusetts, two in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island.
  • Michigan's EEE outbreak is its worst in more than a decade. Massachusetts, with 12 cases, is seeing its worst outbreak since 1956.
    • Aerial sprays have taken place a record six times this year in Massachusetts.
  • "It looks like 2019 is clearly the beginning of our next outbreak," said Catherine Brown of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
  • Brown believes EEEV is more widespread this year because of an ongoing extended period of warm weather.
    • Warm weather speeds up the reproduction process of mosquitos and the life cycle of the virus.
  • Brown says that outbreaks are often caused by a new strain being introduced to a region.
    • She believes a new strain of EEEV came to the Northeast from birds migrating from Florida.

About the Authors:

Brian is an Associate Producer for ClickOnDetroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in Journalism and Screen Studies.