GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools, Rockford Public Schools and Cedar Springs Public Schools are shifting sports games after the first confirmed case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Kent County this year.
The Kent County Health Department says a deer was sickened by the rare mosquito-borne virus and died, according to necropsy results released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
MDHHS also notified Newaygo County that a horse there tested positive for EEE. Newaygo County health officials say this is the first case of EEE in a Newaygo County horse in more than a decade.
Both Kent County and Newaygo County health officials emphasized that no human cases of EEE have been reported in their areas. Newaygo County says it’s never had a confirmed human case of EEE.
Until the first hard frost of the season, MDHHS is encouraging people in all counties where EEE has surfaced to postpone, reschedule or cancel outdoor activities happening at or after dusk, particularly any events involving children.
The following Friday football games have been moved and/or rescheduled due to EEE concerns:
- Allendale vs. Cedar Springs now 5 p.m.
- East Grand Rapids homecoming vs. Wayland now 5 p.m.
- Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills homecoming moved to Houseman Field; kickoff now 4:30 p.m.
- Grandville homecoming vs. East Kentwood now 4:30 p.m.
- Kenowa Hills homecoming vs. Mona Shores now 5 p.m.
- Rockford homecoming vs. Grand Haven now 5 p.m.
GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said the district was canceling Ottawa Hills High School’s boys’ junior varsity soccer game set for Thursday and moving up the varsity soccer game to 5 p.m. at Forest Hills. GRPS added that it’s reviewing all other evening outdoor activities and will announce schedule changes in the coming days.
East Grand Rapids Public School also canceled JV soccer on Thursday and moved varsity soccer and JV football to 5:30 p.m. It also canceled the Friday homecoming parade.
Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Shibler also said all evening activities, practices and competitions at Rockford schools will be rescheduled to end by dusk until the season’s first hard frost. Coaches and directors will inform players and parents of the changes.
“I can assure you that Superintendents throughout the Kent ISD are taking this matter seriously and are committed to working together to ensure the safety of students and adults for home and away events,” Shibler said in the message to parents.
Grandville Public Schools also canceled JV soccer and football Thursday and moved up varsity soccer.
Lowell Area Schools said it was working out the logistics of moving its evening games and practices to earlier times.
This year’s EEE outbreak is already the worst the state has experienced in more than a decade. MDHHS has already confirmed 8 human cases and 27 animal cases of EEE, according to Newaygo County health officials. Among the people sickened by the virus, three have died.
The following counties have had confirmed human cases of EEE this year:
- Barry: 1 person
- Berrien: 1 person
- Calhoun: 1 person
- Cass: 1 person who died
- Kalamazoo: 3 people; 1 died
- Van Buren: 1 person who died
The following counties had confirmed animal cases of EEE this year:
- Barry: 4 animals
- Berrien: 1 animal
- Calhoun: 1 animal
- Cass: 1 animal
- Genesee: 1 animal
- Jackson: 2 animals
- Kalamazoo: 6 animals
- Kent: 1 deer
- Lapeer: 1 animal
- Montcalm: 1 animal
- Newaygo: 1 horse
- St. Joseph: 3 animals
- Van Buren: 2 animals
EEE is one of the most dangerous diseases mosquitoes can carry. Although human cases are extremely rare, approximately one in three people sickened by EEE will die from it. Symptoms include fever, chills and body aches. Severe cases can lead to headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, brain damage, coma and death.
>>Online: MDHHS on mosquito-borne diseases
EEE is more deadly among horses, with a fatality rate of 90%, but there is a vaccine for horses and not humans.
The MDHHS is urging people to take steps to deter disease-carrying mosquitoes before they head outside, including using repellents containing DEET on their body and clothes and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Residents are also encouraged to dump out any standing water in their yard and replacing window and door screens with tears or holes that a mosquito could pass through.
In response to the EEE outbreak, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has curated a list of pesticide services licensed to spray for mosquitoes in Michigan, which you can find online.