Barry Co. horse dies of EEE; statewide cases now 13

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Health officials say a horse in Barry County has died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

The horse got sick in late August and the Barry-Eaton District Health Department was told Thursday it had died.

While it’s the first confirmed case of EEE in Barry County this year, there have been a total of 13 cases in horses statewide, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. One was in Kent County. No people in Michigan have contracted it so far in 2020.

Earlier this week, state veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland said this year’s EEE numbers were within two or three cases of totals from the same time last year.

EEE, a rare mosquito-borne illness, kills about a third of people who develop symptoms and about 90% of horses that develop the illness. Horses can be vaccinated, but there is no vaccine for people.

In 2019, 10 people in Michigan contracted EEE and six of them died, all in the southwestern region of the state.

Horse owners are reminded to vaccinate the animals and keep them in the barn during peak mosquito hours. People should use mosquito repellent with DEET and wear long pants and shirts while outdoors to prevent bites.

The threat of infection will remain until a hard freeze kills mosquitoes.