Deadly mosquito virus EEE has Michigan urging people to stay indoors

Cases of a deadly mosquito-borne virus called EEE have prompted health officials in Michigan to urge the public to cancel or reschedule outdoor events after dusk, especially if those events include children.

The urgent appeal comes at a time when many schools and youth groups typically hold evening practices for marching band, football, cross country, field hockey and other activities that would be difficult to move indoors.

“Our winters are long, so people want to be outside and enjoy the warm weather in the evenings,” said Edward Walker, a professor of microbiology and entomology at Michigan State University.

“Unfortunately, right now that’s a risk,” he warned.

The request to stay inside is only for residents of certain counties in the southern half of the state, where seven human cases of EEE, short for eastern equine encephalitis, have been reported this season. Three of those patients have died.

“Michigan is currently experiencing its worst eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

Michigan’s high case count is not an outlier: 2019 appears to be the worst year for EEE cases in more than a decade across the nation.

On average, seven cases a year are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but this year, at least 20 people have been diagnosed with EEE in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, as well as Michigan.