A Michigan resident has come down with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, also known as EEE, and now the state’s health department is warning residents to stay indoors to avoid contracting the deadly mosquito-borne illness.
“This is an ongoing threat to the health and safety of Michiganders and calls for continued actions to prevent exposure, including aerial treatment,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldu, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Tina Wescott told News 8 that her husband, Jeff Wescott, was suffering from intense headaches, which later progressed into speech difficulties.
She told the news station that over the course of 10 days, her husband went from being a healthy vibrant adult to a person who was unable to walk without assistance, and described the first night of his ordeal as “horrifying.”
"I saw things I never want to see again. It was horrifying just struggling to breathe," Wescott said. “It’s really bad. I really didn’t think he was going to make it.”
A test run by the Mayo Clinic confirmed Wescott’s diagnosis. The virus often proves fatal. Last year, six of the 10 people in Michigan that contracted EEE died. It was reported that all of the cases were in southwest Michigan.
According to the MDHHS, EEE is the most dangerous mosquito-borne disease in the United States, with a 33% fatality rate in people who become ill. The virus has a 90% fatality rate in horses that become ill, but they can be vaccinated. There is no vaccine for humans.
This year alone, the rare mosquito-borne illness has already infected and killed 22 horses in 10 counties, the news outlet reported.
Additionally, there have also been nine confirmed cases of West Nile virus, according to the MDHHS and the Barry-Eaton District Health Department.
Aerial treatment in certain high-risk areas of Michigan began on Wednesday in 10 impacted counties: Barry, Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Oakland.
Local officials have been advised by the MDHHS to consider postponing, rescheduling or cancelling outdoor activities occurring at or after dusk, particularly those involving children.
Signs of the EEE infection, according to the MDHHS, include a sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches, which can progress to a severe encephalitis. That in turn can lead to headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. In some cases, permanent brain damage is suffered.
Jeff Wescott is now reportedly in a rehabilitation center. His wife said he has challenges ahead of him and wants people to know just how serious this virus is.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” she said.