Berrien Health Dept Warns to Protect Against Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Public reaction is soaring as word of new cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis continue to ratchet people’s fears. The Berrien County Health Department is strongly encouraging everyone to take the issue seriously.

With an increase in cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis reported yesterday throughout the state of Michigan, officials at the Berrien County Health Department continue to emphasize that residents need to take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare virus that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. As of today, there is one confirmed case of EEE in Berrien County as well as one suspected case that is pending confirmatory testing. To date, there have been seven confirmed cases of EEE throughout the state of Michigan in 2019.

Although there have been elevated numbers of EEE cases in Michigan this year, the illness remains extremely rare. Not all mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the virus, and not all cases of EEE result in severe symptoms. Mosquitoes that can carry the EEE virus tend to favor woodland and/or swampy habitats. Individual cases of EEE are more likely to occur in those over the age of 50, under the age of 15, or those who may have weakened immune systems from underlying medical conditions or treatments.

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At this time, the Berrien County Health Department is not recommending that community groups cancel outdoor evening events, such as sporting events. However, they say if it is practical, groups can consider relocating outdoor events to an indoor space. The Health Department is recommending the following actions be taken:

  • When outdoors, apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
  • Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.

The Berrien County Health Department is working collaboratively with leadership at Berrien County school districts to take actions where needed and communicate directly with students and families.

It is important to remember that while serious, the risk of contracting EEE is very low. As we head into the season where the risk of contracting the flu is relatively much higher, the Health Department continues to urge that families get a flu vaccination for everyone in their household who is 6 months or older.

More information regarding EEE can be found at www.bchdmi.org or www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

Meanwhile, the family of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm owner Bill Teichman continues to search for answers and help as he suffers from EEE. See his story as shared here at this link:

https://www.moodyonthemarket.com/gofundme-established-for-renowned-tree-mendus-farmer-with-eee/

UPDATE*****UPDATE*****UPDATE*****

Local school districts are issuing responses and plans following the County Health Department release today. St. Joseph Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Bruce, was among the first to dispatch notice to parents with their plans, saying:

At St. Joseph Public Schools, we will be taking the following precautions:

  • Our maintenance department staff will perform a district walk-through, removing any standing water, and will continue to do so on a regular basis until the area receives its first hard frost.
  • All staff have been made aware of the need to monitor this situation and assure that any standing water is removed.
  • Our coaches/supervisors for after-school activities will be provided with insect repellent for teams/groups that practice and perform outside in the late afternoon and evenings.  We will encourage students to apply the repellent, but it will not be mandated as some individuals choose not to use insect repellent.
  • We are contacting our pest control company today to inquire about additional preventative measures that we should take as a district.
  • The District is currently reviewing and monitoring all evening activities that occur after dusk.  Any postponements, cancellations or re-scheduling of events in order to limit potential exposure for students, staff and community members will be communicated through School Messenger and our Social Media platforms.

Finally, the safety and protection of our students, staff and community members remain our first priority.  We have and will continue working with the Berrien County Department of Health and Human Services and with area Superintendents from across Berrien RESA, to refine our safety plan.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have questions or concerns.

Respectfully yours,

Thomas S. Bruce, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools

A short while later, Michigan Lutheran High School shared similar plans saying:

At MLHS, we will be taking the following precautions:

  • Our staff has performed a walk-through, removed any standing water, and will continue to do so on a daily basis until the area receives its first hard frost.
  • All staff have been made aware of the need to monitor this situation and assure that any standing water is removed.
  • Our coaches/supervisors for after-school activities will be provided with insect repellent for teams/groups that practice and perform outside in the late afternoon and evenings. We will encourage students to apply the repellent, but it will not be mandated as some individuals choose not to use insect repellent.
  • We are contacting our pest control company today to inquire about additional preventative measures that we should take.
  • The school is currently reviewing and monitoring all evening activities that occur after dusk. Any postponements, cancellations or re-scheduling of events in order to limit potential exposure for students, staff and community members will be communicated through Constant Contact and our Social Media platforms.

Finally, the safety and protection of our students, staff and community members remain our first priority. We have and will continue working with the Berrien County Department of Health and Human Services and with area Superintendents from across Berrien RESA, to build a safety plan that is sustainable for the duration of this outbreak.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Mr. Herbst