Eastern Equine Encephalitis invades Michigan

Ellie Geib, Staff Writer

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a deadly virus carried by mosquitoes that has existed for centuries, and primarily targets horses, hence its name. It has not been until recently that an outbreak among humans has taken place and began to impact our everyday lives.


You most likely have heard of this virus by now, as Portage Public School employees and school board members have been taking precautions in an effort to protect students, staff and the community from the life-threatening effects of this mosquito-borne illness. All after school activities have been moved to earlier times to avoid people staying outside past dark, as this is a prime time for mosquitoes to be active.


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, five to 10 human cases of EEE are reported every year, with about 30% of all cases resulting in death.


In Michigan alone, there have been seven confirmed cases and three deaths from EEE, one of these deaths occurring in a person from Kalamazoo County. “Michigan is currently experiencing its worst Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of  Health and Human Services, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. 


Officials are urging citizens to wear insect repellent, cover skin by wearing long sleeves and pants and avoid going outdoors at dusk or dawn, times when they are more prone to mosquito bites. The only way to prevent this disease is to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes. 


EEE causes inflammation of the brain, leading to severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and even death. Although only a few cases of EEE are reported in the United States annually, it is still important to take precautions to avoid this life-threatening virus. 


After contracting EEE, it could take a person anywhere from four to 10 days to start experiencing symptoms. There is no vaccination or cure for EEE in humans. Unlike other viruses, it cannot be transmitted from an infected person to another person. 


However frightening this disease may sound, after the first frost of the season, mosquitoes will be wiped out and so will the EEE virus. Until then, we should enjoy our early football games– a much better alternative than risking becoming infected with EEE.