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EEE virus in Kent County

Coquillettidia perturbans, top left, and Culiseta melanura, top, are two mosquitoes with the potential to transmit EEE and West Nile virus to humans. They are shown under a microscope at Bristol County Mosquito Control's office in Taunton.

By Kellie Book

Last night’s light frost is a positive step towards the end of mosquito and Eastern Equine Encephalitis season, allowing Michiganders to breathe a small sigh of relief.

Michigan has seen an abnormally high number of EEE cases this year.

“We wanted people to be aware there have been reports of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare but dangerous disease, in Kent County,” said Grand Rapids Community College Communications Director David Murray in an email.

“The Michigan Department Health and Human Services (MDHHS) notified the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) this morning a deer in Kent County was found to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) during a necropsy (autopsy),” Kent County Health Department said in a news release on Sept. 26. 

There have been no human cases of EEE in Kent county. There have been eight human cases in other Michigan counties. Although EEE cases can be serious, it is generally very rare in humans.

“Only about 4 to 5 percent of human EEE infections result in illness and most people who are infected will never show symptoms,” said Dr. Nirali Bora, KCHD medical director, in the press release. “Those who do become infected may develop fever, chills, body and joint aches.” 

The Center for Disease Control said in an article that the period between infection and onset of the illness is four to 10 days. After that a patient will most likely develop flu-like symptoms as described by Dr. Bora. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends using standard mosquito avoidance practices to reduce the chance of contracting the mosquito-borne virus, such as applying bug repellant.

“I’m slightly concerned,” said GRCC student Johanna Montalvo, 19. “It’s kind of scary, but at the same time, we haven’t heard much about it in our area.”

“I wasn’t very happy when I heard about it, I can tell you that,” said GRCC student Iris Kokalari, 19. 

Montalvo and Kokalari agreed that they felt uninformed about recent developments of EEE’s presence in Michigan. 

GRCC student Nichole Lee also expressed that sentiment. 

“Literally my mom just said it was a thing and that’s as much as I know about it,” Lee said. “I haven’t heard anything on the news or anything.”

The risk of EEE will likely die down significantly once the first hard frost kills the mosquitoes. 

The low temperatures anticipated this week are not expected to result in heavy frost in Kent County, said Meteorologist Brandon Hoving from the National Weather Service of Kent County. 

According to Michigan weather records, Hoving said that the first hard frost of the season will probably fall on or near Oct. 13. Hoving cited the average temperature of 32 degrees on Oct. 13 since 1890 and the average temperature on Oct. 13 for the past several years as the basis of that prediction. Hoving mentioned that 2016 was the main outlier of this annual pattern, with the first frost occurring on Nov. 12.