Is EEE a threat for Michiganders?


“mosquito” by John Tan from Flickr, C.C BY 2.0

Olivia Kinney, Writer

Mosquitoes are flying in with a severe virus throughout Michigan and other northeastern parts of the United States, as well as the Gulf Coast. That deadly virus is called Triple E (Eastern Equine Encephalitis), which causes brain infections. 

Areas such as Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, Montcalm, St. Joseph, and Van Buren have all been affected by Triple E. Four cases have resulted in death and eight others remain in a comatose state according to the Lansing State Journal. 

If one does not know if they have caught Triple E,  the symptoms include sudden fever/chills, body aches, headaches, tremors, seizures, paralysis, or a coma. This is something to watch out for because 33% of people who catch Triple E die. 

Health Communication Specialist Amanda Darche claims that most people who are infected with the Triple E virus will not get the life threatening Triple E and will either have no symptoms or develop a mild illness. While most Michiganders are left puzzled as to why it is a big year for Triple E, Darche has a sense from where it’s coming from.

“There is no definitive answer. We do know, however, that as we experience climate change, different vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks are able to move into regions that were previously too cold,” said Darche, “We are also waiting for our first hard frost to occur. Normally, that would have happened by now but the hard frost will mark the end of mosquito activity for this season.”

Biology teacher Pete Barnum has a hypothesis as well and thinks it’s due to the abundance of the recent rains. 

“There’s been a lot of moisture, especially throughout the summer. Not just in Michigan but in the southern states below us,” said Barnum.

Earlier this week, low flying planes sprayed pesticides on affected counties to avoid the mosquitoes. Triple E infected mosquitoes are likely to be spotted near marshes or swampy areas. Female mosquitoes pick up this virus by biting an infected bird and later transfer it to humans and animals. 

Sophomore Sydney Chrome knows first hand how people are harmed by Triple E. “A girl on my soccer team has a friend from a few cities over, and her friend is in a comatose state because of EEE,” said Chrome, “My teammate said that at first she just had extreme nausea and thought she had the flu, and then after a week or so she was just in the hospital and diagnosed with it.” 

Unfortunately, there’s no cure or treatment for humans. According to the New York State Department of Health, Triple E is not contagious nor spread from people to animals or animals to people.  As for horses, there is a vaccine available to them; they’re also being put at a much higher risk with a 90% fatality rate. Horse owner, Jennifer Houghton speaks on how the virus can trouble horses.

“When they get bitten by mosquitoes it transmits into their blood, a few days later they die so it’s a lot quicker than when humans get it. It’s concerning. However, my horses have been vaccinated so I’m hoping that they’re not at a high risk. We’ve taken precautions like fly spraying them and things like that to try to keep the mosquitoes away, but if they get exposed it’s deadly,” said Houghton. 

Houghton does have some advice for all horse owners, however.  “It’s important to get your horses vaccinated in the spring and again in the fall,” said Houghton.

The recent increase in cases in Michigan is a good reminder that people should take basic precautions like putting on bug spray or wearing extra clothing to prevent mosquito bites. Although the weather is getting noticeably colder and is reducing the mosquito population, one should always be on the safe side and take precautions to avoid getting bitten.