Michigan’s first case of EEE this year found in Livingston County horse

Michigan

HOWELL, Mich. (WLNS) — The first 2021 case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been found in a horse in mid-Michigan, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says.

The case of EEE was identified in a 2-year-old Standardbred filly in Livingston County.

“The Livingston County horse was never vaccinated against EEE, and it developed signs of illness—including fever, lethargy, and depression—which progressed to the animal exhibiting neurologic signs and being down on the ground with an inability to get up. The horse was euthanized due to her declining condition,” state veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland said in a Thursday statement. “It is critically important for horse owners to reach out to their veterinarian to discuss how to best protect their animals from this disease.”

EEE is a viral disease that’s transmitted by mosquitoes to animals and people. The virus typically shows up in Michigan in the late summer or early fall.

While it’s unusual for people infected with EEE to show any symptoms, a third of those who do get sick die. Ninety percent of horses infected are killed. Last year, Michigan saw 41 cases of EEE in animals and four cases in humans.   

MDARD recommends the following to protect animals:

  • Talking to a veterinarian about vaccinating horses against EEE.
  • Placing horses in a barn under fans (as mosquitoes are not strong flyers) during peak mosquito activity from dusk to dawn.
  • Using an insect repellant on the animals approved for the species.
  • Eliminating standing water on the property—i.e., fill in puddles, repair eaves, and change the water in buckets and bowls at least once a day.
  • Contacting a veterinarian if a horse shows signs of the illness: mild fever and stumbling, which can progress to being down and struggling to stand.

The virus cannot be passed from person-to person or between horses. It is spread exclusively by mosquitoes.

In humans, symptoms of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, and body and joint aches. The virus can also cause severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma, and death may occur in some cases. While there is a vaccine for horses, there’s not one for people.

“This equine case indicates the EEE virus is here in Michigan and provides a warning that residents could also become infected by a mosquito,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said. “Michigan residents are urged to take precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The following tips are for people to avoid getting EEE:

  • Applying insect repellents containing the active ingredient DEET (or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved products) to exposed skin or clothing, and always following the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Applying insect repellent to clothing to further prevent bites.
  • Maintaining window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Emptying water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused children’s pools, old tires, or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
  • Using nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

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