4 new cases of mosquito-borne disease, 2 deaths reported in SW Michigan

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LANSING, Mich. (WNDU) – There are four new human cases of a mosquito-borne disease in southwest Michigan, including two resulting in death.

Photo: CDC / James Gathany

The new cases were confirmed in Cass, Van Buren and Barry counties. Previous cases were confirmed in Berrien and Kalamazoo counties.

The two new fatal cases were in Cass and Van Buren counties, while the initial fatal case was in Kalamazoo County.

"The case count we have seen so far this year is high for our normal baseline. It is in line with trends that we see where we do see a spike every couple of years," said Gillian Conrad, communications manager for the Berrien County Health Department.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services continues to urge residents to take precautions against Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE.

EEE is such a dangerous disease that the Michigan health department is asking the five counties with human cases, as well as St. Joseph, Genesee and Lapeer counties – which have confirmed animal cases of the disease – postpone or reschedule outdoor activities happening after dark because of the threat of mosquitoes carrying the disease, especially if the events involve children.

"Michigan is currently experiencing its worst Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. "The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites."

MDHHS encourages residents to use insect repellent with the active ingredient DEET, including applying it to clothing; wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; make sure windows are closed or have screens; empty water from mosquito breeding sites like buckets, pools and old tires; and use nets or fans over outdoor eating areas.

"Just be vigilant about mosquito bite prevention," Conrad said.

EEE has a fatality rate of 33% in people, with the greatest risk being to people younger than 15 or older than 50.

Symptoms include sudden fever, chills, and body and joint aches. It can turn into severe encephalitis, which could present symptoms such as headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

"Symptoms can start anywhere from four to 10 days past that exposure from the mosquito bite, so it's not something that's going to happen super quick after being bit by a mosquito," Conrad said.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms is encouraged to contact a medical professional immediately.