LANSING, MICH. (WLNS)—– The number of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) cases reported so far this year, is more than double the amount of cases reported this time last year.

Five cases of EEE were reported over the weekend, bringing the yearly total to 18, all of which were found in animals. Last year, Michigan experienced one of the worst outbreaks of EEE ever documented in the state, with 10 human cases—including 6 deaths—and 50 cases in animals from 20 counties. EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. that can affect both animals and humans. 

“We cannot state this strongly enough: horse owners and the general public need to take responsible, proactive steps to protect themselves and their animals from mosquito-borne diseases immediately,” said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland, DVM. “We don’t know if the dramatic increase in EEE equid cases is due to a lapse in vaccinations or a higher prevalence of EEE in Michigan’s mosquito population, but it doesn’t matter. If we ignore what’s happening, we run the risk of losing lives.”

Even though the state is experiencing some cooler temperatures, this should not cause horse owners or residents to ease up on the precautions that they are taking. The virus is typically seen in late summer to early fall each year in Michigan. Typically, mosquito-borne illnesses, like EEE, will continue to pose a risk to both animals and humans until about mid-October after there have been at least two hard frosts.

“We strongly urge Michiganders to take precautions against mosquito bites,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Mosquito-borne diseases can cause long-term health effects in people, even death. Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches. Severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis and even death can also occur.”

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