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An adult from Barry County is suspected of having the rare and dangerous mosquito-borne virus Eastern equine cephalitis, health officials announced Tuesday.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is now urging people in 10 Michigan counties – Barry, Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Oakland – to cancel or postpone outdoor events that take place during or after twilight to prevent more from getting the virus that spreads through bites of infected mosquitoes.

Also known as Triple E, the virus is one of the deadly mosquito-borne diseases in the United States with a mortality rate of 33% in people who become ill. It leaves many survivors with physical and mental disabilities. It kills 90% of horses sick with the virus. So far this year, 22 horses in the 10 counties urged to cancel outdoor events have had confirmed cases of the virus.

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“MDHHS continues to encourage local officials in the affected counties to consider postponing, reorganizing or canceling outdoor activities that take place at or after dusk, especially those involving children, in order to reduce the possibility of people being bitten by mosquitoes, “said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Generator of Health at MDHHS, in a statement.

If the suspected human case is confirmed through laboratory tests later this week, it would be the first person with EEE this year in Michigan.

Last year, the EEE infected 38 people in the United States – more than any previous year since it was tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a typical year, there are seven cases nationally.

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In Michigan alone in 2019, six people died and four others were hospitalized. Three of the four people who survived EEE infections in the state “have severe neurological problems and continue to receive supportive care, either in rehab or at home with home care,” said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. , in a previous interview with Free Press.

Signs of EEE infection include sudden fever, chills, body and joint pain, which can progress to severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis.

Children under the age of 15 and people over the age of 50 are most at risk of developing serious disease from the EEE virus. There is no vaccine against EEE, no treatment, and there is no cure. Doctors can only offer supportive therapy to help patients breathe, get fluids and nutrition, and prevent other infections.

Anyone who thinks they may be experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention. Permanent brain damage, coma and death can also occur in some cases.

MDHHS announced earlier this week that it would begin spraying pesticides in the 10 counties where EEE cases have been identified in horses to control mosquitoes and reduce the risk of infection.

“This alleged EEE case by a Michigan resident shows that this is a persistent threat to Michigan’s health and safety and calls for continued action to prevent exposure, including air treatment,” Khaldun said.

Spraying is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the 10 affected counties, and state health officials say more areas of the state could be treated if additional cases of humans or animals are identified.

Air treatment will be performed by Clarke from St. Charles, Illinois, using special flights that begin early in the evening and continue until the following dawn. The treatment will be carried out using Merus 3.0, the same product that was used in 2019 in Michigan to treat 557,000 acres. Merus 3.0 is registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development and is labeled for use in public health over residential areas.

To avoid EEE, health officials suggest following these steps:

  • Use insect repellent containing DEET or another product approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency for exposed skin or clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
  • Wear shirts with long sleeves and long pants when you are outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to prevent bites.
  • Maintain window and door guards to help keep mosquitoes out.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused children’s pools, old decks or similar places where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
  • Use utensils and / or fans over outdoor dining areas.

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or kshamus@freepress.com

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