We have all been bitten by a mosquito and as a result itched like crazy – but some mosquito bites can be fatal.
The rare Eastern equine encephaliti (EEE) virus is killing horses and people across the country. While there is a vaccine for horses against the deadly disease, there is not one for humans.
The disease is transmitted through mosquitos. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, the virus causes severe swelling of the brain, which can be fatal. 90% of horses and 33% of humans infected with the disease die. Even if a human is not killed by the disease, they can suffer mild to severe brain damage.
Symptoms of Eastern equine encephalitis virus start to develop four to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People with severe cases may experience sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting, followed by disorientation, seizures, and coma.
Michigan is the most recent state with deadly cases of EEE. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning to all resident. “Michigan residents are being reminded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to protect themselves from mosquito bites following the confirmation of one case of a mosquito-borne disease in a resident and three other possible cases in the state.”
Six horses were confirmed in Michigan to have the virus and all have died. Sadly, none of the horses were vaccinated against the deadly disease.
Florida, New York and Massachusetts have also issued EEE warnings to their residents after confirmed cases have appeared in their states. While the disease is rare, usually only affecting 5-10 humans a year, a Massachusetts woman recently died after becoming infected.
“Mosquito-borne diseases can cause long-term health effects in people and even death,” said Dr. Mary Grace Stobierski, MDHHS state public health veterinarian and manager of the Zoonotic and Emerging Infectious Diseases Section. “These cases, along with confirmed cases in horses and deer in the state, stress the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites.”
All horses should be vaccinated against the deadly disease annually. Dogs and cats should be protected with mosquito repellents. The CDC states, “Persons over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEE.”
There is no cure for the deadly virus and officials urge people to protect themselves from mosquito bites. This means limiting outdoor activities from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
MDHHS suggests residents:
– Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
– Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
– Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
– Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
– Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
Share this with your friends and family to keep them protected.
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.