First case of eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus confirmed in horses in Michigan

The state has confirmed its first case of eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus in a domestic animal after horses living in Mecosta County and Calhoun County returned positive tests.

EEE was reported in a 4-month-old Belgian colt in a 7-year-old Standardbred gelding from Mecosta and West Nile, both horses unvaccinated for the respective diseases.

While these aren’t the first cases reported in Michigan, they’re a reminder of how each illness spreads — as well as current circulation among mosquito populations.

“These detections indicate that these diseases are present and circulating in the state’s mosquito population, so it is critical to protect animals from exposure to these insects. Preventing mosquito bites will prevent mosquito-borne diseases,” said state veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland

Both diseases carry potentially serious side effects with a small percentage of those testing positive developing neurologic symptoms.

More: The state has confirmed its first case of EEE

They are transmitted by mosquitoes and cannot be transmitted from horse to horse or to humans. Infection usually occurs in late summer and early fall.

So far, EEE cases have been detected in four mosquito pools in Bay, Barry and Saginaw counties. WNV cases were in 98 different mosquito pools in Bay, Genesee, Iosco, Kalamazoo, Kent, Oakland, Saginaw, Tuscola, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties.

“These findings are a reminder that the EEE virus is here in Michigan and provide warning that people can also be infected by mosquitoes,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive. “Michigan residents are urged to take precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites as EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33 percent fatality rate among those who become ill.”

The state is usually on alert for diseases until the first freeze, which kills most mosquitoes.

Learn more about the state health department’s disease here.


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