KALAMAZOO, MI — State health officials suspect three West Michigan residents have contracted a deadly mosquito-borne disease.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials said Monday, Aug. 26 they’re investigating potential cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in three residents from Kalamazoo and Berrien counties.
In addition to those cases, six horses in Barry, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties have died from the disease this year, MDHHS officials said.
While there is an EEE vaccine for horses, no such vaccine exists for humans. EEE has a 33 percent fatality rate in humans and a 90 percent fatality rate in horses, health officials said.
Like West Nile Virus, humans contract EEE from the bite of mosquitoes that carry the virus. There have been no reported human cases of West Nile Virus this year in the state, though health officials have found infected mosquitoes and birds.
Another mosquito-borne virus called California encephalitis was confirmed in a Genesee County resident.
“Mosquito-borne diseases can cause long-term health effects in people and even death,” Dr. Mary Grace Stobierski, MDHHS’ state public health veterinarian, said in a statement. “These cases, along with confirmed cases in horses and deer in the state, stress the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites.”
To avoid mosquito bites, health officials recommend using insect repellents with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, securing window and door screens, emptying any places of outdoor pooled water and keeping outside areas of eating netted.
Signs of EEE include sudden fever, chills, body and joint aches. Symptoms of California encephalitis virus include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and lethargy.
Both diseases can develop into severe, acute inflammation of the brain, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.
In some cases, permanent brain damage, coma and death may occur.
More information can be found here.