Bill Teichman of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm battles rare mosquito-borne virus

EAU CLAIRE, Mich. (WNDU) There are three reported human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Michigan this year.

Bill Teichman

One of them was fatal and another hit third generation fruit farmer Bill Teichman of Eau Claire.

The Teichman family owns and operates the Tree Mendous Fruit Farm that has hosted an international cherry pit spitting competition for the past 46 years.

The pit spit in July went fine—the problems started in August.

“Well he started out with not feeling very well, very weak and of, his mind he wasn't speaking clearly and things like that,” said Irene Latack, Teichman’s sister in-law who spoke to 16 News Now over the telephone from Grand Rapids. “Became very weak, and by the time he had gotten to the emergency room he was fairly non respondent.”

Bill Teichman checked into the hospital on August 16th, presumably thanks to a mosquito that passed on the triple E virus. Triple E causes a swelling of the brain.

Bill Teichman spent three weeks in a neurological ICU unit in Grand Rapids before being transferred to a long term acute care facility in the same city.

“And they call it a sleeping sickness and that's what he does he sleeps, He does open his eyes and at this point we do believe that he can hear and see us, but he can't really make any movements on command,” said Latack.

Teichman is being weaned off a ventilator and a twitch of the toe was recently seen by the family as a sign that his natural reflexes were returning.

“We're true believers in prayer from everybody and we received a lot of that, and the outreach for helping on the farm, helping with where we're staying right now. Everybody's been really great and we're very, very thankful for that,” said Latack.

A GoFundMe account has been set up on the family’s behalf to cover quickly accumulating medical costs.

On the first day, some $12,000 had been raised.

Teichman is a fruit farming father of three children who range in age from 16 to 24.

EARLIER VERSION:

Bill Teichman of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire is battling Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a rare mosquito-borne virus that has a fatality rate of about 33% in humans.

After Teichman was admitted to the hospital on August 16, his symptoms quickly worsened and he was transferred to an intensive care unit in Grand Rapids.

He's now at a long-term acute hospital.

"There are small signs of improvement that give us hope but we know this is a very long road ahead of us," says the organizer of a GoFundMe campaign that hopes to raise $50,000 for Teichman's treatment. "Medical costs are quickly accumulating and this GoFundMe page will give you an opportunity to help Bill and Monica with the financial burden of the current and long-term out of pocket expenses."

Teichman is a "3rd generation fruit farmer and the heartbeat of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm," according to the GoFundMe. William and Leone Teichman first started their Eau Claire fruit farm in the 1920s.

Click here to see the GoFundMe page.

"While rare, EEE virus can cause serious illness and has a fatality rate of about 33 percent in people. Many people who recover may still experience long-term complications. Symptoms of EEE virus disease include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain," according to the Indiana State Department of Health. "Some people develop a more severe form of the disease that affects the nervous system and causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). People who are younger than 15 years and older than 50 years are at the greatest risk of severe disease if infected with EEE virus. People who think they may have EEE virus disease should see a healthcare provider."

Indiana State Department of Health officials recommend the following preventive measures:

• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn and early morning)
• Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on clothes and exposed skin
• Cover exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded areas
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home

You can eliminate mosquito breeding sites from your property by doing the following:

• Discard old tires, tin/aluminum cans, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water
• Repair failed septic systems
• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors
• Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed
• Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains
• Frequently replace the water in pet bowls
• Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically
• Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with predatory fish