Michigan Warns Residents About Mosquito-Borne Illness After a Death

Health authorities in Michigan have warned residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites that can transmit a virus that has recently sickened three people in the state, one of them fatally.

A statement from Kalamazoo County’s Health and Community Services on Sept. 6 said that two people had been sickened by the virus that causes Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the county and another in Berrien County, both in the southwest part of the state.

“We strongly encourage residents to take precautions such as using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors during the peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn,” James Rutherford, the department’s health officer, said in the statement.

The fatal case was in Kalamazoo County, which is south of Grand Rapids, the statement said. The man who died was identified by his family as Gregg McChesney, 64, an artist and grandfather who was working alongside his brother less than a month before his sudden death, a local television station reported.

He was a “perfectly healthy, happy human being and within a matter of nine days he went from perfectly healthy to brain-dead,” Mark McChesney, a brother, told News 8 on Tuesday.

There were three more possible cases in Kalamazoo and an additional case was under investigation in Berrien, the statement said. Residents were also advised to take precautions to ensure windows and doors have tight-fitting screens, and to eliminate standing water.

“The risk for contracting E.E.E. throughout Kalamazoo County is considered widespread and all residents should take actions to prevent mosquito bites until the first hard frost of the year,” the statement said.

This week, the authorities in Connecticut announced their first human case of E.E.E. The commissioner of the Department of Public Health, Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell, on Monday said an adult in East Lyme has tested positive for the disease.

The disease is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a fatality rate of 33 percent in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 90 percent of the horses that are stricken with the disease die, it said.

Transmission of the virus is most common in and around swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and in the Great Lakes region, the C.D.C. said.

The virus is transmitted to people and animals through a mosquito bite. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another, or from an animal to a person. In the United States, an average of seven human cases are reported annually, the agency said.

Early symptoms usually appear about four to 10 days after exposure to the virus. They include headache, high fever, chills and aches. Symptoms can develop into brain swelling, which can result in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis, the Michigan statement said.

There is no human vaccine or specific anti-viral treatment, the C.D.C. said.It said people with symptoms should consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.

Christine Hauser is a reporter, covering national and foreign news. Her previous jobs in the newsroom include stints in Business covering financial markets and on the Metro Desk in the police bureau. @ChristineNYT

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