Michigan health officials are urging residents of 11 counties to stay indoors from dusk until dawn to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that carry a deadly virus that killed six people in the state last year.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that a resident of Barry County, southwest Michigan, is the first suspected human case of eastern equine encephalitis called EEE.
This suspected case in one person occurs after the virus was found in 28 horses in 11 counties – twice as many animal cases as at the same time last year.
“When there is a high rate of animal infections, humans are just as at risk,” said a government adviser.
The health department has also called for outdoor activities to be postponed or canceled during or after dark, especially for children.
“Electrical and electronic equipment is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States,” a state advisory said. People can become infected with a bite from a mosquito that carries the virus, and people under the age of 15 and over 50 are at maximum risk of developing serious illness after infection.
“This suspected EEE case in a Michigan resident demonstrates that it poses an ongoing threat to the health and safety of Michigan and calls for further action to prevent exposure, including air treatment,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive made a statement.
A first night of aerial anti-mosquito treatments was held on Wednesday for high risk areas.
As of September 9 that year, the U.S. had only five confirmed cases of electrical and electronic equipment in humans, three in Massachusetts and two in Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only about 4 to 5 percent of people who contract the EEE virus will develop encephalitis, and the US has an average of 11 cases each year.
But 2019 had the highest number of cases in more than a decade – 38. Michigan made up more than 25 percent of that number with 10 cases.
Signs of EEE infection include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint pain, which can lead to severe encephalitis leading to headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis, according to the Michigan Department of Health. According to the CDC, about a third of all people with encephalitis die from an EEE infection.
The best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites by taking preventative measures, including using an EPA-approved mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and cleaning outdoor items that contain stagnant water, such as bird baths or planters.