LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says it’s confirmed another human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in a new county.
MDHHS says the new case involves a resident of Calhoun County, bringing the total number of human cases to eight in six counties: Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
So far, three people have died from EEE. The mosquito-borne disease has also killed at least nine horses and five deer.
EEE has also reached more animals as far north as Montcalm County, where a horse was diagnosed with it. Campgrounds in that county said they were spraying for mosquitoes over the weekend and urging campers to use bug spray.
The MDHHS says lab workers have confirmed EEE in 21 animals from 11 counties: Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, Montcalm, St. Joseph, and Van Buren. State health officials say additional animal cases are under investigation.
MDHHS reemphasized its warning to all Michigan residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites until the first hard frost.
Following the state health agency’s advice, some school districts shifted Friday football games earlier to avoid dusk, when mosquitoes are at their worst.
Loy Norrix High School Athletic Director Andrew LaBoe said the decision to move up the games came as a recommendation from MDHHS.
“No one has ever faced anything of this magnitude,” LaBoe said. “It’s very serious as people have lost their lives.”
LaBoe said changing the schedule hasn’t been easy, but it’s what’s necessary to keep the community safe.
“We’re very concerned about the safety and well-being of our kids,” LaBoe said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s the right thing to do.”
According to LaBoe, students and parents support the decision.
“I think to err on the side of caution is always a good move,” said Loy Norrix parent Christina Getachew.
As a parent volunteer, Getachew brought extra bottles of bug spray to pass around during the game.
EEE is one of the most dangerous diseases mosquitoes can carry. 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.