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Deadly virus identified in Otsego County horse

Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Northern Michigan health officials are warning people to protect themselves from mosquitoes after a deadly mosquito-borne virus was found in a horse in Otsego County.

Health officials in Northern Michigan warned people to protect themselves from mosquitos after a horse in Otsego County tested positive for a disease called Eastern Equine Encephalitis earlier this week.

The disease kills about 1 in 3 people who come down with it, said Dan Thorell, the environmental health director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.

“It’s a very serious disease, and we just wanted to basically warn citizens, warn horse owners, warn livestock owners that it’s out there, it’s in our area, and to take precautions.”

Triple-E, as Thorell called the disease, is transmitted by mosquitoes, not from person to person, so he said people should drain any standing water around their homes and pastures, and wear pants and long-sleeve shirts and use mosquito repellent when they’re outside.

Thorell said horse owners should consider getting their animals vaccinated against the disease, but there’s no vaccine for humans.

Fortunately, “Triple-E is rare in humans,” Thorell said. Only four cases have been reported in Michigan in the last five years, according to data from the state health department.

“I don’t think we should panic,” he said. “But, we think it’s serious enough to basically let the public know that it’s out there and they should take precautions against getting mosquito bites.”

Despite that summer is officially over, the mosquitoes that spread the disease are still buzzing, said Thorell.

“Don’t give up on mosquitos,” he said. “They tend to stick around.”

He said until temperatures are regularly dipping below freezing, mosquitoes will stay alive and can spread disease.