People, horses, deer infected with mosquito-borne disease in SW Michigan

Cropped Photo: Erik F. Brandsborg / CC BY-SA 2.0
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LANSING, Mich. (WNDU) – Michigan health officials have announced recent cases of a mosquito-borne disease being discovered in the state, including at least one suspected case in Berrien County.

There is one confirmed case and three suspected cases of eastern equine encephalitis in humans in Berrien and Kalamazoo counties, according to a release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS. There is one case of California encephalitis infecting a Genesee County resident.

In addition, six cases of the disease have been confirmed in horses. Those cases are in St. Joseph, Kalamazoo and Barry counties, and all six – none of which were vaccinated – died from the disease.

Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, also has been confirmed in two deer in Cass and Barry counties.

Michigan health officials say EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses in the U.S. It has a 33% mortality rate in humans, and that rate rises to 90% in horses.

Because of these discoveries, MDHHS is urging people to take precautions. The health department recommends the use of insect repellent with DEET, wearing long sleeves, closing windows or using screens, and emptying areas of sitting water in which mosquitos breed.

Symptoms of EEE include sudden fever, chills, and body and joint aches. California encephalitis symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and lethargy.

If the diseases develop into severe encephalitis, people may experience headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, even permanent brain damage, coma or death.

For more information on mosquito-borne diseases, visit Michigan's Emerging Diseases webpage.