EEE Detected in Michigan

Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Director Dan Wyant announced Aug. 15 that Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus was recently detected in three Kalamazoo County gray catbirds. The positive birds, common carriers of EEE, indicate the presence of the disease in the area and serve as a warning to residents to take precautions that include preventing mosquito exposure and bites and vaccinating horses.

EEE, commonly called "sleeping sickness," is caused by a virus found in wild birds. Mosquitoes that have fed on birds carrying the EEE virus can transmit the disease to horses and humans. Birds are able to harbor the virus without becoming acutely ill, thereby serving as a reservoir for EEE. Horses do not develop high enough levels of the EEE virus in their blood to be contagious to other animals or humans.

"Even though EEE has not yet been detected in any Kalamazoo County mosquitoes, people should be proactive and take reasonable precautions to avoid the risk of EEE by preventing mosquito exposure and by taking necessary steps to protect their horses," Wyant said.

In horses, clinical signs of EEE include fever, progressive muscle incoordination, paralysis, blindness and inability to rise. The fatality rate can be as high as 95 percent.

Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to discuss vaccination against EEE Veterinarians must report all suspect EEE cases to MDA's Animal Industry Division at 517/373-1077.

Michigan has an active EEE surveillance program in place that involves MDA, the Michigan Departments of Community Health and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, local health departments, private veterinary practices, and four county-wide mosquito control programs. This program traps and tests mosquitoes, identifies and tests wild bird flocks, identifies and confirms EEE horse cases, and monitors suspect human cases.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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