Precautions needed after mosquito-borne illness found in bird

The Marquette County Health Department recently released an alarming announcement that all residents of the region need know about: A ruffed grouse in Marquette County has tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses in North America.

Infection by the virus that causes eastern equine encephalitis in people and animals occurs through the bite of an infected mosquito and can be deadly, with a 33% fatality rate in humans.

Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, has been diagnosed in four ruffed grouse in the Upper Peninsula over the past few years, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“The presence of EEE in wild bird populations is a strong indication that EEE is carried by local mosquitos in Marquette County and throughout the U.P.,” health department officials said in a news release announcing the EEE case in the ruffed grouse.

Mosquito-borne illness will continue to be a risk in Michigan until late fall when nighttime temperatures consistently fall below freezing, health department officials said.

This means that there is a need for precautions right now, as many of us have seen mosquitos flitting about during these recent warm fall days.

It’s critical to stay vigilant and protect yourself from mosquito bites this fall and in the coming spring and summer seasons, as EEE can be an incredibly serious and devastating disease.

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills and body and joint aches. Illness can eventually develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases, health department officials said.

The disease is not spread person-to-person, meaning that the best course of action is to focus on protection from mosquito bites.

Marquette County Health Department officials recommend the following steps to avoid mosquito bites —

— Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product, to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s direction for use.

— Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.

— Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.

— Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitos may lay eggs.

— Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

To safeguard horses, owners are recommended to take these measures —

— Talk to a veterinarian about vaccinating horses against EEE.

— Place horses in a barn under fans, as mosquitoes are not strong flyers, during peak mosquito activity from dusk to dawn.

— Use an insect repellant on the animals that is approved for the species.

— Eliminate standing water on the property, such as filling in puddles, repairing eaves and changing water in buckets and bowls at least once a day.

— Contact a veterinarian if a horse shows signs of the illness: mild fever and stumbling, which can progress to being down and struggling to stand.

For more information about mosquito-borne diseases, go to Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

Readers are urged to protect themselves and their animals from mosquito bites and encourage others to do the same, as this disease does not have an approved vaccine or antiviral treatment.


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