Ask Dr. Nandi: Eastern Equine Encephalitis cases reported in 10 counties, double what they were last year

Posted at 5:26 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 17:26:37-04

(WXYZ) — Residents are being urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites, as cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis has doubled what they were at this time last year.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that 22 horses in 10 counties have EEE. And while no human cases have been reported, we need to be very concerned about this dangerous mosquito-borne disease.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is not only dangerous to humans, but it can be deadly as well. It has a 33% fatality rate for those who get very sick.

For the people who do survive, they can end up with long-term brain damage. If we look back at last year, Michigan had 10 cases of EEE. Six of those people died. So that’s why we need to go the extra mile and protect ourselves.

First of all, not everyone develops symptoms. In fact, only about 4-5% will get chills, fever, weakness, muscle, and joint pain.

The good news is these folks will likely recover completely. But there is a small percentage - less than 1% - that will develop a severe neurologic illness. Their symptoms can include headache, irritability, drowsiness, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and coma.

Those who are most at risk of severe disease are kids younger than 15, and people over the age of 50.

All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito that is carrying the disease. So here’s my advice:

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent. They contain ingredients like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.
  • Be sure to read product labels before using and follow the instructions. And don’t like children handle repellents.
  • Avoid outdoor activities that take place at or after dusk. Because mosquitoes are most active at this time.
  • If you do need to be outside near dark, wear long pant and long sleeves to help protect yourself.
  • Get rid of standing water around your home. Check things like flowerpots, toys, buckets, tires and trash bins.
  • Make sure your windows and doors have screens on them. That way you can let in fresh air but not any pesky bugs.

Question: Last question, the state will begin aerial mosquito control treatment in high-risk areas, which includes Oakland County. Is spraying harmful to humans?

Over 557,000 Michigan acres were treated last year. And no increased adverse effects were reported in people or animals.

The state uses an ultra-low volume spray of an approved pesticide that contains 5% pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are a botanical insecticide extracted from chrysanthemum flowers. So if you have sensitivities to pyrethrins, you can reduce your exposure by staying indoors during treatment. And currently, the plan is to spray in the early even through dawn.