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Fifth EEE death reported; virus still a threat despite cooler temperatures, health officials say

Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

            Even though temperatures have cooled in our area, health officials continue to encourage residents to take measures to protect themselves from Eastern equine encephalitis.

            Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials Tuesday confirmed a fifth fatality tied to the mosquito-borne disease, this time in Cass County. It was the 10th human case of the disease statewide, department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said.

            In addition, five more animal cases have been confirmed – three in St. Joseph County, and one each in Allegan and Kalamazoo counties. That brings to 44 the number of animal cases that have been diagnosed in the state over the last two months.

            Sutfin says, even if a hard frost occurs this week or next -- which isn't likely according to the National Weather Service, we could continue to see more cases reported for another month or so.

            “What you need is a couple of days of freezing temperatures,” Sutfin said. “What we're telling folks is continue to take those precautions.”

            EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S., with a 33 percent fatality rate. Survivors are often left with physical or mental disabilities. Barry County has had one human case of EEE and five animal cases - three in whitetail deer and two in horses.

            Aerial pesticide spraying over more than 557,000 acres in 14 counties was completed Oct. 7 to help combat EEE. That total included more than 107,000 acres in seven Barry County townships.

            Other counties where EEE cases have been confirmed include Allegan, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph, Tuscola and Van Buren.

            Residents should continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites by:

            - Avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitos that carry the EEE virus are most active.

            - Applying insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer's directions for use.

            - Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.

            - Maintaining window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.

            - Emptying standing water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.

            - Using nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

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