Fifth person dies of EEE in West Michigan

Southwest Michigan

CASSOPOLIS, Mich. (WOOD) — A fifth person from West Michigan has died from rare but dangerous Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Family members identified the man who died as Henry Hess, 72. He is the second resident of Cass County to have died from the mosquito-borne infection this year.

henry hess
An undated courtesy photo of Henry Hess, a Cass County man who died after contracting mosquito-borne EEE. (Oct. 14, 2019)

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said Monday that Hess started showing symptoms before Sept. 30, when the state started aerial spraying for mosquitoes carrying EEE.

So far, the state has confirmed 10 human cases of EEE in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

Although an average of 1 in 3 people die from EEE, half of the Michigan residents sickened by the infection have died this year. They include 79-year-old Stan Zalner of Battle Creek, 64-year-old Gregg McChesney of Richland, two people from Cass County and a Van Buren County resident.

Sutfin also told News 8 Monday that the state confirmed another case of EEE involving another Allegan County horse, bringing the animal case count to 40 in 16 counties. MDHHS says the horse started showing symptoms of the infection on Oct. 1 – two days before aerial treatment started in the area.

EEE is one of the most dangerous diseases mosquitoes transmit. Although human cases are rare, severe cases can lead to headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, brain damage, coma and death. Symptoms typically include fever, chills and body aches.

EEE is more deadly among horses, with a fatality rate of 90%, but there is a vaccine for horses and not humans.

Although 557,000 acres have been sprayed for mosquitoes, MDHHS is still 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 replace window and door screens with tears or holes that a mosquito could pass through.



MDHHS on mosquito-borne diseases

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