Michigan’s first case of EEE this year found in Livingston County horse


LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — The first case of 2021 of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been found in a horse in Livingston County, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland confirmed.

The case of EEE was found in a two-year-old Standardbred filly. EEE is a viral disease that’s transmitted by mosquitoes to both animals and people.

33 percent of people who become sick with EEE end up dying and 90 percent of horses who get the virus die.

The virus typically shows up in Michigan in the late summer or early fall.

“The Livingston County horse was never vaccinated against EEE, and it developed signs of illness—including fever, lethargy, and depression—which progressed to the animal exhibiting neurologic signs and being down on the ground with an inability to get up. The horse was euthanized due to her declining condition,” said Wineland. “It is critically important for horse owners to reach out to their veterinarian to discuss how to best protect their animals from this disease.”

Last year, Michigan saw 41 cases of EEE in animals and four cases in humans.   

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recommends the following to protect animals.

  • Talking to a veterinarian about vaccinating horses against EEE.
  • Placing horses in a barn under fans (as mosquitoes are not strong flyers) during peak mosquito activity from dusk to dawn.
  • Using an insect repellant on the animals approved for the species.
  • Eliminating standing water on the property—i.e., fill in puddles, repair eaves, and change the water in buckets and bowls at least once a day.
  • Contacting a veterinarian if a horse shows signs of the illness: mild fever and stumbling, which can progress to being down and struggling to stand.

The virus cannot be passed from person-to person or animal-to animal, just by mosquitoes.

In humans, symptoms of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, and body and joint aches.

The virus can also cause severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma, and death may occur in some cases.

“This equine case indicates the EEE virus is here in Michigan and provides a warning that residents could also become infected by a mosquito,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “Michigan residents are urged to take precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The following tips are for people to avoid getting EEE.

  • Applying insect repellents containing the active ingredient DEET (or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved products) to exposed skin or clothing, and always following the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Applying insect repellent to clothing to further 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 children’s pools, old tires, or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
  • Using nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

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