ELKHART — A rare and potentially fatal mosquito-borne virus that's already killed at least three people in southern Michigan has been found in Indiana.
Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) is a a rare cause of brain infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far this year, mosquitoes in one area in Elkhart County have tested positive for the virus.
Elkhart County is in northern Indiana along the Michigan border.
Five horses in the county have also tested positive for the virus and at least two of those horses have had to be euthanized, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
On average, around seven cases of EEE are reported in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And most of those cases occur in the eastern or Gulf Coast states. Approximately 30 percent of people who contract EEE die and those who survive are more likely to have severe ongoing neurological problems.
The positive tests in northern Indiana come in the wake of at least seven deaths — including three in Michigan — from the disease so far this year, and reports that at least 27 people have tested positive for the disease in six states.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has reported eight cases of EEE in residents living in six different counties including Barry, Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. So far three people have died from the virus in Michigan. There have also been nearly two dozen cases of EEE reported in animals in the state.
In some Michigan counties, health departments are even warning residents to take extra precautions such as not being out after dark and some school districts within those counties have re-arranged and/or canceled evening outdoor sporting events as an extra precaution.
The incubation period for EEEV disease ranges from four to 10 days from the date a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC. An EEEV infection can result in two types of illness, either systemic or encephalitic, depending on the person's age and a number of other factors.
In humans, the virus invades the central nervous system and causes inflammation in the brain. About 30% of people who contract EEE die, and many of those who survive have ongoing neurological problems, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of EEE are similar to that of the flu and include:
- Sudden onset of headache
- High fever
- More severe symptoms of EEE include:
The Indiana State Department of Health says EEE has not been this high since 2010, which is concerning. The department says they are continuously monitoring the situation and are urging people to avoid mosquito bites.