The Grapevine

EEE Virus In Michigan Update: What Health Officials Are Saying

Another mosquito-borne disease is threatening people in Michigan.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis or commonly known as Triple E or sleeping sickness caused the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to urge locals to protect themselves from the bite of infected mosquitoes after confirming two cases of the virus infecting horses in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.

Initially infecting horses with a reported 90 percent fatality rate, people are still warned for they can also be bitten by infected mosquitoes. Though it is a rare cause of potentially fatal brain infections in people, “it has a 33 [percent] fatality rate for humans who become ill,” Lynn Sutfin of the MDHHS said.

Vaccines are readily available for horses, but there is no vaccine yet approved for people, Sutfin added.

In humans, EEE has an incubation period that ranges from 4 to 10 days. It is possible that people with this type of illness will not display the symptoms, but in most cases, infected people will experience headache, fever, drowsiness, restlessness, irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis, convulsions, and in later stage, coma leading to death.

Patients can likely recover from the disease as long as they are immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider and given supportive treatment. However, of those who recover, they may be left with some brain abnormality that can progress to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders and neurologic dysfunctions.

In light of this, health officials advised residents to safeguard themselves and their families from EEE and other mosquito-borne diseases. They may do so by following these steps:

1. Apply insect repellents that are EPA-registered or contain DEET to exposed skin. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.

2. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. It is also important to wear light colored clothes so as not to attract mosquitoes.

3. Stop mosquitoes from laying eggs. Empty, turn over or cover items that hold water around the house, such as buckets, planters, trash containers or any similar mosquito-breeding sites.

4. Always keep screened windows and doors closed. This way mosquitoes are prevented from coming inside the house.

Mosquito Bites Mosquitoes and other insects are particularly attracted to certain types of hosts. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain