It's easy to blame a new health problem in 2020 considering what it has already done to us. Now, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services has warned Michigan residents about a rare mosquito-borne disease known as eastern equine encephalitis. Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain.
The state DHHS issued a statement on Sept. 15 alerting residents that preliminary blood tests suggest that a Barry County resident may have electrical and electronic equipment. Doctors are waiting for more blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.
There are no other reports of human infections, but there are also 22 confirmed EEE cases in horses in 10 counties. The virus is not transmitted from person to person or horse to person. It is only spread by infected mosquitoes.
Rarely but seriously
Eastern equine encephalitis is rare but very serious. According to DHHS, “Electrical and electronic equipment is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33 percent death rate in sick people and a 90 percent death rate in sick horses. People can become infected with electrical and electronic equipment and other mosquito-borne diseases from the bite of a mosquito that carries the virus. “Survivors can still have neurological problems.
Not everyone who is infected shows symptoms, but the most common early ones are mild fever and muscle and joint pain. If the infection is severe, it can cause:
- Sudden onset of fever and chills
- a headache
Diagnosis and treatment of electrical and electronic equipment
Symptoms can take anywhere from 4 to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Doctors diagnose electrical and electronic equipment by doing blood tests and testing cerebrospinal fluid, which is obtained through a spinal tap.
Because EEE is a virus, antibiotics cannot treat the infection and antiviral drugs are not yet available. Treatment is based on managing symptoms such as lowering the fever, providing intravenous (IV) fluids, and ventilating patients if necessary to help them breathe easier.
Reduce your risk
Since the only way to get infected with this virus is through a mosquito bite, all efforts to reduce the bites will lower the risk of infection. The Michigan CDC and DHHS Recommend:
- Use of an approved insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing. The products should contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or lemon eucalyptus oil.
- If possible, wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
- Keep mosquitos out of your home by making sure the screens are in good condition.
- Remove any places where mosquitoes can multiply. Any items that can hold stagnant water, such as barrels, paddling pools, or even tire swings, should be cleared or removed.
- Use nets and / or fans over outdoor dining areas
These precautionary measures will also help reduce your risk of contracting West Nile virus, another mosquito-borne disease.
The state is working to combat the infection with air treatments in high-risk areas. For people who live in Michigan, click here to view the treatment zones in your county.
EEE is not a new virus
While this warning applies to Michigan, the virus can and will occur elsewhere in the United States. There were three cases in Massachusetts and two in Wisconsin earlier this year, according to the CDC.
According to an article on CNN, EEE infections have increased since last year. As of September 2019, 30 cases were reported in the US, 11 of which died. The infections were in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
The best advice to avoid infection is to stay vigilant wherever you are and try to prevent mosquito bites. If you have a bite and get sick within a few days, get medical help as soon as possible.