Latest Mosquito Epidemic Results in Deaths in Michigan: What You Need to Know

Though small, mosquitoes these days carry a large threat: the Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV). Here’s what you need to know to avoid contracting the illness (Photo via Wikimedia Commons).

Mosquitoes have long been known to transfer deadly diseases. The Zika and West Nile viruses come to mind as just a couple. Although these illnesses tend to seem like a far off threat, appearing mostly in southern states where climates are warmer, cases of the most recent epidemic have been reported closer to home than many are used to.

The Virus

Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) is the latest mosquito-transmitted epidemic. In Michigan, cases have been reported in Barry, Berrien, Cass, Genesee, Van Buren, Lapeer, St. Joseph and Kalamazoo counties. Some affected areas, particularly Kalamazoo, are strikingly close to Albion’s campus.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EEEV is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can lie dormant within an infected person for four to 10 days before the individual begins to show symptoms. From there, the infection becomes either “systemic” or “encephalitic.”

Systemic infections have a quick onset with symptoms most closely resembling a fever. The infection will typically resolve itself within two weeks with no permanent damage.

Encephalitic infections, infections characterized by brain swelling, appear within a few days of systemic infection symptoms. Encephalitic infections can potentially result in death two to 10 days after the onset of symptoms if left untreated. 

Approximately one-third of EEE cases result in death. For those who survive, mental and/or physical disabilities ranging in severity.

How to Protect Yourself

Though life-threatening if contracted, prevention is possible, and taking precautions against infection is easier than you might initially think.

Bug Spray

Make sure to use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered repellent. These are the only types of repellents which are guaranteed to be effective. Moreover, make sure to apply the spray according to the guidelines instructed on the package. Certain bug sprays, such as Off! are highly acclaimed and known to work well. Sprays containing DEET have been proven to work the best, although the chemical does have high levels of toxicity which, while not harmful to people, can be harmful to the environment. If you’re looking for something more environmentally friendly, aim for a repellent containing picaridin or permethrin. 

Clothing

Although Fall is not yet in full effect and temperatures can still be high under the blazing sun, wear clothing that covers exposed skin, like long sleeves and long pants. Mosquitos are less common in residential areas, but when traversing into places like the Nature Center or other areas where there’s standing water, it’s best to bundle up despite the sun.

Monitor Activity Times

Mosquitoes tend to be the most active around dawn and again around dusk, so limit outdoor activity in the morning and evening if possible. Make sure to close windows overnight as well so mosquitoes can’t find a way inside during this time.

About Jordan Revenaugh 41 Articles
Jordan Revenaugh is a junior from Rochester, Michigan. An aspiring journalist and author, she is a double major in psychology and English with a creative writing concentration. In addition to being Editor-in-Chief of the Pleiad, Jordan runs cross country and track, is a part of Delta Gamma and InterVarsity, and is a dedicated avocado enthusiast.

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