EEE: What you should know

Lapeer and Genesee County, amongst others, have been identified by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as high-risk areas for the dangerous mosquito-borne virus Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). 

EEE is carried by certain types of mosquitoes in Michigan and is a potentially serious disease that can affect anyone. Children and adults over 60 are more likely, however, to experience the more severe form of EEE illness.

The only way to protect yourself from the virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which carry EEE after they bite infected birds and then pass it along.

The virus causes mild or no symptoms in some people, but is fatal in 1 in 3 people and can cause long-term disabilities in those who survive it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no treatment for EEE, except to offer support for a severely ill patient with breathing, hydration and nutrition. 

Because mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, people in high-risk areas are urged to cancel, postpone or reschedule outdoor actives that occur at or after dusk, especially those that involve children, the MDHHS advises. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) continues to urge Michiganders to protect themselves against mosquito bites until the first hard frost. 

The CDC offers these tips for protecting yourself from mosquito bites:
1. Use bug spray with DEET.
2. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and shoes with socks.
3. Inspect your home for spots where mosquitoes could enter. Be sure there are no holes in windows and door screens, so mosquitoes stay outside. Repair any screens that are damaged or have holes. 
4. Avoid and empty standing water, where mosquitoes would breed. 
5. Stay indoors at dusk and after dark, when mosquitoes are most active.
6. Use nets and/or fans to keep bugs at bay.
7. Babies younger than 2 months old should not use insect repellent. Instead:
• Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
• Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
• Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthanediol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.

Symptoms of EEE
Symptoms of EEE typically appear from four to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the CDC. The infection can be either systemic or encephalitic, which involves the swelling of the brain causing neurological changes such as change in mental status or confusion. Some people who contract EEE have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of EEE can include:
• Fever
• Chills
• Headache
• Irritability and restlessness
• Drowsiness, disorientation
• Muscle and joint pain
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Cyanosis, a blush discoloration of the skin resulting from poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood
• Convulsions (seizures) 
• Coma

Patients with suspected EEE should be immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider.