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Health officials urge EEE precautions until hard frost

Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

            Local and state officials are continuing to encourage residents in Barry and neighboring counties to take steps to protect themselves from the spread of the mosquito-borne disease Eastern equine encephalitis.

            While no new human cases of EEE have been found in Barry County, a new animal case was diagnosed on Tuesday, said Colette Scrimger, health officer for the Barry-Eaton District Health Department.

            The new EEE case, which was found in a whitetail deer, is the fifth animal EEE case identified in Barry County in the last month. Three of the five animal cases in the county have been found in deer while the other two were in horses.

            Overall, the state has reported a total of 25 animal EEE cases across Michigan and nine human cases, including one in Barry County, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

            Among the new animal cases that have been confirmed was a Mexican gray wolf pup at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. The pup, which was part of a litter born to a breeding pair of Mexican gray wolves at the zoo in June through a species survival program, died during the first weekend in September and is the first confirmed case of EEE in Calhoun County.

            “Although EEE infection in canines is very, very rare, there have been a few cases previously reported in domestic dog puppies. All species considered highly susceptible to EEE infection at the zoo, including domestic and non-domestic equine species and ostriches, are vaccinated on a yearly basis,” Binder Park staff veterinarian Kim Thompson said.

            Local schools are continuing to follow advisories from MDHHS about postponing or rescheduling nighttime outdoor activities, particularly high school football games, until the first hard frost occurs.

            At Hastings High School, today's home freshman and junior varsity football games will start an hour earlier than usual, with the freshman game at 3:30 p.m. and the JV game to follow. That schedule will continue to remain in effect until the first hard frost, Superintendent Dan Remenap said.

            Meanwhile, Hastings Athletic Director Mike Goggins confirmed Wednesday that the Oct. 4 homecoming game against Jackson Lumen Christi will begin at 5 p.m., so that the game would be completed before dusk. The district is taking other precautions for its athletic teams as well.

            “We have provided every team that practices outside with DEET mosquito spray for those that would like to use it,” Goggins said.

            Thornapple Kellogg Assistant Superintendent Craig McCarthy said the school practice fields, playgrounds and stadium have been sprayed. Bug spray also will be available for attendees of athletic events.

            “The safety and security of our students and staff is our No. 1 priority,” McCarthy said.

            At Delton Kellogg High School, the Panthers' Oct. 4 homecoming football game against Watervliet has been moved up to a 5 p.m. kickoff. The earlier kickoff means the traditional homecoming parade prior to the game has been postponed, Superintendent Kyle Corlett said.

            “With the game starting at 5 p.m., we don't have enough time to have a parade beforehand, due to traffic, etc.,” Corlett said. “We're working on rescheduling the parade for our last football game on Oct. 25, but if the Health Department's warning is still in effect, we won't be able to have it then either.”

            In addition, the district is on a waiting list to get its fields and playground facilities sprayed, Corlett said.

            At Maple Valley Schools, the district is maintaining protocols that were set in place last week. No games have yet been rescheduled but could be moved if the EEE situation continues.

            We are moving our youth football (practices and games) forward to get people home earlier, and we continue to have mosquito spray available for evening activities,” Maple Valley Superintendent Katherine Bertolini said. “It doesn't sound like a frost is coming anytime soon, so we must remain vigilant.”

            Health officials continue to urge residents in Barry and surrounding counties to take necessary steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites that could lead to EEE. They include:

 

• Applying 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.

• 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 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.

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches which can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases. Three deaths have been linked to EEE in Michigan so far, Sutfin said.

For more information about mosquito-borne diseases, visit Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

 

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