LANSING, MI (WILX) -- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services(MDHHS) said state residents are being strongly advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
The advisory comes after four additional cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been confirmed in southwest Michigan--including two that were fatal.
The MDHHS is taking further action to protect public health as the disease remains a threat that has now resulted in seven confirmed human cases of EEE in Michigan with onset dates in July, according to the MDHHS.
Three people and nine horses have died from the virus, including 64-year-old Gregg McChesney from Kalamazoo County. His family said he died in August after being sickened with the illness for just nine days.
They say it's something they never saw coming.
"He was perfectly healthy, happy human being and within a matter of nine days he went from perfectly healthy to brain dead," Mark McChesney, Gregg's brother said.
The MDHHS said the new cases expanded the geographic area affect by human EEE cases to include Barry, Cass and Van Buren counties along with the previously identified cases of Kalamazoo and Berrien counties.
Two of the additional cases, in Cass and Van Buren counties, were fatal, along with an earlier case in Kalamazoo County, according to the MDHHS.
The MDHHS is encouraging local officials in the five southwest Michigan counties that have been impacted by human EEE and St. Joseph, Genesee and Lapeer counties, which have had animal EEE cases, to consider postponing, rescheduling or canceling outdoor activities happening at or after dusk, specifically activities that involve children.
The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department also issued a recommendation to a local municipalities and schools to consider cancelling outdoor events or moving them inside if they are scheduled at or after dusk, according to the MDHHS.
The virus starts with a fever, chills and body ache. It then causes inflammation of the brain, which can lead to permanent brain damage, coma and death.
EEE kills 33% of the people who get it.
The MDHHS said all Michigan residents can stay healthy by following these steps to avoid mosquito bites:
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions 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 mosquitoes may lay eggs.
• Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
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