State: 1st EEE case of year found in Clare County horse


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The state says it has confirmed Michigan’s first 2020 case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in a horse in Clare County.

The horse was a 2-year-old filly, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Tuesday.

EEE is a rare mosquito-borne illness. In people, symptoms include fever, chills and body aches. Severe cases can lead to headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, brain damage, coma and death.

Last year, EEE infected a record 10 people in Michigan and killed six of them, all in the southwest part of the state. Also last year, the state identified EEE in 50 animals in 20 counties.

Generally, EEE proves fatal in about a third of people who develop symptoms. That percentage is much higher in horses — 90% — but there is a vaccine for horses and not for people.

MDARD said the Clare County horse was never vaccinated.

“(The horse) developed signs of illness — including walking in circles, leaning to the right, and pressing her head against objects — which progressed to the horse being down on the ground with an inability to get up,” MDARD state veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland said in a statement. “Horse owners in Michigan should take extra measures to protect their animals.”

The state advised owners to vaccine their horses, keep them in the barn with a fan during peak mosquito hours and use a mosquito repellent on the animals.

To protect yourself from the virus, you should use an insect repellent that includes DEET, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors, make sure your window screens are in good repair to keep out mosquitoes. You should also get rid of the standing water on your property where mosquitoes can spawn.

Those measures can also help prevent other mosquito-borne illnesses, like West Nile virus.

Kent County health officials say they have actually seen fewer cases of West Nile in mosquitoes than expected in early July. At that point, the summer had been hot and dry. The type of mosquito that carries West Nile thrives in that kind of weather. But it has been wetter since then, washing out the storm drain catch basins where the mosquitoes like to breed.

The county added that it’s too soon to determine how the shift in weather will affect the type of mosquito that carries EEE, which breeds in bogs. It did say it has not seen any suspected cases of the disease in animals in Kent County.

However, health officials warned that no one should let their guard down and advised them to take steps to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.

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