BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The rare but dangerous Eastern Equine Encephalitis has killed another person in West Michigan, state officials confirm.
Lynn Sutfin with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said the fourth person to die from EEE this year came from Calhoun County.
Family members confirmed to News 8 the most recent death was 79-year-old Stan Zalner of Battle Creek.
The Calhoun County resident’s death came nearly two weeks after the MDHHS confirmed he was sickened by EEE.
Zalner’s daughter, Ronna Bagent, says he was in good health before becoming infected, playing golf several times a week. The family believes he was bitten by an infected mosquito sometime in August.
Bagnet says her father’s symptoms started very mild and included feeling achy and tired. Eventually he developed a fever and quickly ended up in a coma.
The family took Zalner off life support Wednesday morning because he had suffered extensive brain damage.
The Calhoun County Public Health Department is reminding people to take precautions to reduce their risk of getting the disease.
“It’s a reminder to us all just how serious this disease can be. Certainly our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” said Calhoun County Health Officer Eric Pessell.
While rain again forced the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to postpone aerial spraying for mosquitoes Wednesday, Pessell expects the treatment to be finished before the end of the weekend.
So far, the state has confirmed nine human cases of EEE in six counties: Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren.
EEE has also sickened 33 animals in 15 counties: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren. Sutfin says all 18 horses, 13 deer and 2 wolf pups have died from the infection.
Calhoun County is one of the 11 counties MDHHS planned to treat for mosquitoes Wednesday evening before the wet weather moved in. It’s unclear when the treatment will resume for parts of Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Van Buren, Kent, Montcalm and Newaygo counties.
So far, state health officials say 186,146 acres have been treated in an effort to kill adult mosquitoes carrying EEE.
EEE is one of the most dangerous diseases mosquitoes transmit. Although human cases are 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.
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 also 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.