Third death linked to mosquito virus "EEE" in Michigan prompts warning

(WTVG) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human services says three people have died after contracting eastern equine encephalitis.

Two people died yesterday in Michigan after contracting the virus and then dealt with it spreading to the central nervous system.

Dr. Dan Pavuk is an associate professor and an entomologist at BGSU. He says eastern equine encephalitis is extremely rare but it carries a high mortality rate. The CDC says 30% of cases of "EEE" are deadly in humans.

So far this year, people in Michigan, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have contracted the virus. In Michigan there are 7 cases; including 3 deaths. Rhode Island is reporting 3 cases of EEE and Massachusetts had 8 cases as of Friday, September 13, including one death. The virus also affects horses and has proven deadly this year.

In humans, the symptoms can mimic the flu but in some cases, Pavuk says the infection moves to the brain and can quickly cause a coma or seizures and ultimately death.

The Michigan Department of Health is warning people in the following counties: Cass, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Barry, Berrien, St. Joseph, Genesee and Lapeer to use caution when outdoors after dusk, wear bug spray and cover exposed skin in long sleeves and pants.

Pavuk says while the high number of people contracting EEE is rare he believes the cases will remain isolated and not grow into a widespread issue during the final weeks of warm weather.

Health officials say the risk of mosquitoes and EEE will be gone after the first hard frost of the season.