Another Eau Claire farmer battles rare mosquito-borne virus

EAU CLAIRE, Mich. (WNDU) --- Another Berrien County farmer is ill with a potentially fatal and rare mosquito-borne virus called Eastern equine encephalitis.

A GoFundMe page has been established for Jim Whitright, of Eau Claire, indicating that Whitright was rushed to the emergency room on Aug. 19 and has since remained in the intensive care unit at Lakeland Hospital.

He is making some progress but has yet to wake up or open his eyes.

Bill Teichman, owner of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, is currently at a long-term acute hospital in Grand Rapids after being diagnosed with Triple E, according to Irene Latack, Teichman's sister-in-law.

On Sunday, she updated hisGoFundMe page, explaining the third-generation fruit farmer is on Day 6 of being weaned off a respirator.

Teichman can see and hear, but family is unsure if he knows who people are or knows what has happened to him. Unable to move on his own right now, he won't be able to move onto the next step of care until he is able to move independently and breathe without a respirator.

Teichman was hospitalized Aug. 16, three days before Whitright.

Triple E has a fatality rate of about 33% in humans. According to the Berrien County Health Department, there are three confirmed cases of Triple E in Michigan: one in Berrien County and two in Kalamazoo County, one of which was fatal.

A fourth case -- presumably Whitright's -- has yet to be confirmed, pending official test results, said the Berrien County Health Department, which urges Michiana residents to be on the lookout for mosquitoes.

"Even though we're headed into the fall, mosquitoes are still very much active here in Michiana, and it is important that residents are able to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and thereby prevent Eastern equine encephalitis," said Gillian Conrad, the communications manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

For more information on Triple E, click here.