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5th person dies from EEE in Michigan

Eastern Equine Encephalitis has a 33% fatality rate in humans.

LANSING, Mich. — There have now been five people to die from Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Michigan this fall.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the most recent EEE death on Monday. Lynn Sutfin with the health department said the individual who died was an adult from Cass County who had symptoms before Sept. 30. 

There have been 10 human cases in the state. Cases occurred in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases with a 33% fatality rate in humans. 

Additionally, the state health department said they confirmed another case in an Allegan County horse, bringing the total number of EEE animal cases to 40. It is 90% fatal in horses. 

This year's outbreak has hit Michigan particularly hard. On average, only seven human cases are reported annually across the country.

State officials announced at the end of September they were going to conduct aerial spraying 14 counties to combat the risk of the disease. 

More than 557,000 acres were treated to fight the spread of EEE.

Cases of EEE first popped up in West Michigan at the end of August, when six horses in Barry, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties died from the disease. Since then, cases have spread around the region. 

How to protect yourself from EEE

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches. It can develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur. 

MDHHS is advising Michigan residents to take precautions against mosquito bites, even though there is a frost predicted in some parts of the state. They offer this advice:

  • 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.

Mosquito borne illnesses are a risk in Michigan until nighttime temperatures consistently fall below freezing. 

"The risk of EEE continues if there has not been a sustained period of freezing temperatures,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “We urge residents to continue taking precautions against mosquito bites.”

FAQs about EEE and aerial spraying

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