Kristen Jordan Shamus
| Detroit Free Press
Savanah DeHart, a West Michigan teenager with electrical and electronic equipment, is slowly recovering
Savanah DeHart, 15, is working on her rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids after contracting the EEE virus
A rare and dangerous virus poses a threat to Michiganders – and it’s not COVID-19.
Mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis rears its head amid the coronavirus pandemic. State health officials announced Tuesday that a Barry County adult is the first suspected human case of Triple E this year. Laboratory tests to confirm the case are underway and expected to be completed later this week.
So far, in 2020, the virus has also been confirmed in 22 horses from 10 Michigan counties, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The counties with cases in horses are: Barry, Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Oakland.
What is electrical and electronic equipment?
Eastern equine encephalitis is one of the deadliest mosquito-borne viruses in the United States. It kills 33% of the people who get sick from it. And it leaves many survivors with physical and mental disabilities.
Mosquitoes are carriers of electrical and electronic equipment and can transmit them to humans and animals after biting infected birds.
As of September 9, five more cases of electrical and electronic equipment in humans had been reported in two other states – Massachusetts and Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year the virus made 38 people sick in the US – more than any previous year since it was tracked by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of them, more than a quarter – 10 people – were from Michigan.
More: A tiny mosquito bite robbed Savanah DeHart, a Michigan teenager, of the ability to speak and walk
More: Mother tells the survival story of encephalitis as virus spikes in western Michigan
In a typical year there are seven cases across the country, and about a third of people infected with the virus die.
Of the 10 cases in Michigan in 2019, six people died and four more were hospitalized. Three of the four people who survived EEE infections in the state “have serious neurological problems and continue to receive supportive care, either in rehab or at home with home care,” said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
EEE Symptoms What To Look For
Not everyone who is bitten by a mosquito infected with electrical and electronic equipment will be infected by the virus. Many people have mild or no symptoms. The people most severely ill with EEE are younger than 15 years and older than 50 years.
There is no treatment for the EEE virus other than to provide breathing, hydration, and nutrition assistance to a critically ill patient.
The symptoms of electrical and electronic equipment usually appear four to ten days after an infected mosquito bites, according to the CDC. The infection can be either systemic or encephalitic, which causes swelling of the brain. Some people who become infected with electrical and electronic equipment have no symptoms at all.
In patients who develop systemic infection, symptoms can appear suddenly and last for up to two weeks. They include:
- Joint and muscle pain
In people who develop encephalitic infection, the following symptoms typically appear after a few days of systemic illness:
- a headache
- Irritability and restlessness
- Drowsiness, disorientation
- Cyanosis, a bluish discoloration of the skin due to poor circulation or insufficient oxygen supply to the blood
Anyone with any of these symptoms should see a doctor.
How to protect yourself from electrical and electronic equipment
The only way to protect yourself from the Triple E virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Even though the weather is slowly cooling, the mosquitoes that spread electrical and electronic equipment are still active. For this reason, health officials are calling on people in the 10 counties affected not to engage in outdoor activities in the evenings and after dark, when the mosquitoes are most active. They suggest canceling outdoor events, especially those that children could attend.
This would include events such as exercise or late-night games, or outdoor music practice.
In addition, residents should protect themselves from mosquito bites by:
- Apply insect repellants that contain the active ingredient DEET or another product registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency to exposed skin or clothing and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to prevent bites.
- Maintenance of window and door screens to keep mosquitos out.
- Emptying water from mosquito breeding grounds throughout the house, such as buckets, unused children’s pools, old tires or similar places where mosquitoes can lay eggs
- Using nets and / or fans over outdoor dining areas.
Airborne pesticide spraying begins
Targeted spraying of pesticides to control mosquitoes is slated to begin Wednesday evening in certain areas of the state that are at high risk of triple E infections.
“We are taking this step to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents in areas of the state where we know mosquitoes can transmit this potentially fatal disease,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief physician and deputy head of health in a press release. “As people spend more time outdoors due to COVID-19, they also need to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development earlier this week issued an emergency rule temporarily requiring mosquito control treatment for parts of 10 Michigan counties: Barry, Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, and Newaygo Oakland.
Additional areas can also be addressed as new human or animal cases are identified.
The spraying is done with special aircraft, starting in the early evening and until the next dawn.
State-certified mosquito control professionals use an approved pesticide called an Ultra-Low Volume (ULV) spray, which emits very fine aerosol droplets that float in the air and kill adult mosquitoes on contact.
They will be using Merus 3.0, the same product that was used in 2019 when the state also ran an aerial mosquito control program.
Merus 3.0 is registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency and MDARD and labeled for public health in residential areas. It contains 5% pyrethrins, a botanical insecticide extracted from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrins are commonly used to control mosquitoes, fleas, flies, moths, ants and many other pests and are also approved for organic farming.
What are the risks of air spraying?
According to state health authorities, the risks are minimal and no special precautions are recommended.
People known to be sensitive to pyrethrins can reduce the potential for exposure by staying indoors during treatment. Air treatment is not expected to have any effect on surface water or drinking water. Monitoring in 2019, when more than 557,000 acres were treated in Michigan, found no increased human, animal or insect adverse effects associated with air treatment.
The air treatment is carried out during the night, as mosquitoes are more active here. It’s also when fish are less likely to eat on the surface and honeybees are most likely to be in their hives. However, owners should cover small decorative fish ponds during the spray night. While it is not necessary to bring animals indoors during treatment, affected pet owners can bring animals into the house during this time.
When will my area be sprayed?
Spraying is scheduled to begin Wednesday evening in parts of Counties Montcalm and Clare as indicated on this Air Treatment Zone map:
- Blocks 4-1 and 4-2 in Montcalm County.
- Blocks 9-1, 9-2, 9-3, and 9-4 in Clare County.
If time and weather permit, the following areas will also be covered on Wednesday:
- Block 5-1 in Kent County.
- Block 6-1 in Newaygo, Oceana, and Muskegon counties; and Block 6-2 in Newaygo County.
- Block 7-1 in Mecosta County.
- Block 8-1 in the Mecosta and Isabella counties.
- Block 10-1 in Ionia County.
These schedules are weather dependent and are subject to change. For the most current information, visit Michigan.gov/EEE.
The MDHHS hotline for general EEE questions is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 888-535-6136.
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.