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Three dead from mosquito-borne virus in Southwest Michigan

A mosquito
flickr user trebol-a
Guard against mosquito bites with repellent with DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Updated Tuesday September 19 at 11:45 a.m.:

There are now four additional confirmed cases of a mosquito-borne virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis, two of which have been fatal, in Southwest Michigan. It brings the total to seven cases and three deaths since a July onset. 

Listen above to hear Stateside's conversation with Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford about the Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak in Southwest Michigan.  

The geographic regions impacted include Barry, Cass, and Van Buren counties, along with previously identified cases in Kalamazoo and Berrien counties. The three deaths have been reported in Cass, Van Buren, and Kalamazoo counties.  In a press release, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) urges state residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites. 

“Michigan is currently experiencing its worst Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites.”

The fatality rate for EEE is at 33% for those who become ill. Those younger than 15 and over 50 are at greatest risk.

The press release also noted the signs and symptoms of the virus and when to seek medical attention:

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches which can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should visit their physician’s office.

To learn more about the virus, visit the state's website.

A number of Michigan schools have rescheduled football games in response to the outbreak:

  • Cassopolis at Bangor, 4 p.m.
  • Buchanan at Constantine, 5 p.m.
  • Centreville at White Pigeon, 5 p.m.
  • Mendon at Bloomingdale, 5 p.m.
  • Hartford at Eau Claire, 5 p.m.
  • Marcellus at Decatur, 5 p.m.
  • Perry at Lake Odessa Lakewood, 5 p.m.
  • Three Rivers at Sturgis, 5 p.m.
  • Paw Paw at Dowagiac, 5:15 p.m.
  • Plainwell at South Haven, 5:15 p.m.
  • Lawton at Delton Kellogg, 5:30 p.m.
  • Mattawan at Niles, 5:30 p.m.

Original post, Saturday September 7, 6:22 p.m.:

Officials in Kalamazoo County say a person who contracted a mosquito-borne virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis has died.Mlive reports that the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services said in a statement on Friday that the person was one of two in the county to contract the virus. Another confirmed case has been reported in Berrien County, and health officials are trying to determine if two other people who became ill in Kalamazoo County have the virus.

Kalamazoo officials have not released any information about the person who died.

Health officials say the best way to guard against mosquito bites is to wear repellent with DEET and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, particularly at dusk when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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