Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or Triple E, has been causing fatalities in Michigan’s livestock—particularly horses. But the mosquito-borne virus has a human death toll.
According to Lynn Sutfin, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services public information officer, there have been cases of Triple E dating back to the 1980s, and those cases are rare.
“We’ve had years where we’ve had a couple of different cases, but nothing like what we have seen this year,” said Sutfin. To put that in perspective, we’ve had 10 cases with five deaths—that’s more than we had in the last 10 years combined.”
The beginning symptoms of Triple E include headache, fever, chills and vomiting. Sutfin says those symptoms become more severe with time.
“It will progress into disorientation, seizures and potentially a coma,” said Sutfin. “That’s when that encephalitis and swelling of the brain is occurring. Many of those who survived have mild to severe brain damage if they do survive Triple E, but approximately one-third of them who develop it, they die.”
As with livestock, there is no treatment for Triple E. The frost many of us have been waking up to in the morning has not been enough to kill the mosquitoes. Sutfin says the threat still exists.
“We are still telling folks to wear insect repellent, long sleeves, make sure our screens are in good repair, everything you can do to protect yourself from mosquito bites until we’ve had several nights of freezing temperatures,” she said.
According to Sutfin, researchers and officials at the CDC level have been asking why this year has been particularly bad for Triple E Precipitation and weather are believed to play a role in Triple E, but what that combination is still isn’t known.