Officials confirm first mosquitoes carrying EEE found in Michigan this year

First EEE-positive mosquito detected in Barry County

A mosquito.
A mosquito.

BARRY COUNTY, Mich. – Officials have confirmed the discovery of the first mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Michigan this year.

Health officials said the disease was detected in a mosquito pool from Barry County. The first EEE-positive horse was detected Thursday (Aug. 26) in Livingston County.

“These discoveries indicate that the EEE virus is here in Michigan and provides warning that residents could also become infected by a mosquito,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “Michigan residents are urged to take precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites as EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S., with a 33 percent fatality rate among humans who become ill.”

People and animals get EEE through bites from infected mosquitoes. The disease cannot be spread from person to person.

Symptoms of EEE

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills and body and joint aches. Illness can eventually develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death might also occur in some cases.

EEE has a 90% fatality rate in horses that become ill.

This is the first year the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories has been performing testing on mosquitoes collected by local health departments and academic partners. To date, over 43,000 mosquitoes have been tested.

Avoiding mosquito bites

Residents should follow steps to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved 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, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

Protecting horses

“For horses, EEE is a serious but preventable disease,” said state veterinarian Nora Wineland, DVM. “Positive mosquito pools can help to identify areas of risk. Horse owners should work with their veterinarian to develop a plan to protect their animals.”

To safeguard their horses, owners could:

  • Talk to a veterinarian about vaccinating horses against EEE.
  • Place horses in a barn under fans (as mosquitoes are not strong flyers) during peak mosquito activity from dusk to dawn.
  • Use an insect repellant on the animals approved for the species.
  • Eliminate standing water on the property: fill in puddles, repair eaves and change the water in buckets and bowls at least once a day.
  • Contact a veterinarian if a horse shows signs of the illness, such as mild fever and stumbling, which can progress to being down and struggling to stand.

About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.