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Michigan reports suspected case of deadly mosquito-borne EEE virus

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Michigan health officials suspect a resident has contracted the rare and life-threatening disease Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) after being bitten by a mosquito, they announced Tuesday. 

 It’s the first human case of EEE in the state so far this year, and the sixth in the US. 

Last year, the US saw an unusual spike in the number of people bitten by infected mosquitoes. By early October 2019, at least 30 people had been infected with the disease, which kills about 30 percent of people who catch it. 

After identifying a likely case in Barry County, Michigan, officials there are urging area residents to stay inside – especially after dark, when mosquitoes are more active – and pan to spray pesticides in the hopes of killing off some of the insects, before they have a chance to kill people.  

Michigan health officials reported a suspected case of the deadly mosquito-borne disease Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a resident this week. If confirmed, it will b e the state's first case of the infection that kills 33% of human victims this year, and the sixth for the nation (file)

Michigan health officials reported a suspected case of the deadly mosquito-borne disease Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a resident this week. If confirmed, it will b e the state's first case of the infection that kills 33% of human victims this year, and the sixth for the nation (file)

Michigan health officials reported a suspected case of the deadly mosquito-borne disease Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a resident this week. If confirmed, it will b e the state’s first case of the infection that kills 33% of human victims this year, and the sixth for the nation (file) 

‘This suspected EEE case in a Michigan resident shows this is an ongoing threat to the health and safety of Michiganders and calls for continued actions to prevent exposure, including aerial treatment,’ said chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in a statement

The state began ‘aerial treatment’ using special planes to dust 10 counties on Wednesday. 

In addition to the treatment plan, health officials suggested that the counties – Barry, Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Oakland – consider cancelling outdoor events planned to take place after dusk, especially if they involve children. 

As of yet, the suspected EEE case has not been confirmed, but officials suspect that confirmatory labs will be back by the end of the week. No further details about them was provided.  

EEE most commonly starts with a fever, body aches and chills that come on suddenly. 

Already, 22 horses have been infected in Michigan this year - a worrying harbinger that there may be more cases in humans (pictured: mosquitoes swarm horses in Louisiana, another state where EEE-infected insects and animals are sometimes found; file)

Already, 22 horses have been infected in Michigan this year - a worrying harbinger that there may be more cases in humans (pictured: mosquitoes swarm horses in Louisiana, another state where EEE-infected insects and animals are sometimes found; file)

Already, 22 horses have been infected in Michigan this year – a worrying harbinger that there may be more cases in humans (pictured: mosquitoes swarm horses in Louisiana, another state where EEE-infected insects and animals are sometimes found; file) 

It can quickly progress to cause intense headaches and disorientation, as well as tremors seizures and, eventually, paralysis. 

The EEE virus (EEEV) is carried primarily by mosquitos, which can give it to birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals – most notably, horses. 

Already this year in Michigan, 22 cases have been confirmed in horses, animals for which the virus is deadly about 90 percent of the time they become ill. 

EEEV can travel from a mosquito bite through the bloodstream to the membranes around the spinal cord and brain. 

Once the brain is infected, the virus can trigger dangerous swelling that proves fatal for 33 percent of symptomatic people. 

Most years, there are only five to 10 cases, occurring between spring and early fall, when warm weather provides favorable conditions for mosquitoes to breed and, of course, feed.  

The insects and the virus alike tend to thrive in humid, swampy areas, especially low-lying ones with standing water. 

Cases are most common on the East Coast, Great Lakes area, and Gulf Coast states. 

Over the past decade, Massachusetts – which has had three cases this year – Florida, Georgia, New York and North Carolina. Two cases have been reported in 2020 in Wisconsin as well. 

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