Windsor-Essex mosquito pool tests positive for rare virus
WINDSOR -- A rare and deadly virus has surfaced in a mosquito pool in Windsor.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s routine mosquito surveillance program identified one mosquito pool that tested positive for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.
The EEE virus transmission cycle occurs between birds and mosquitoes, but can be spread to humans and other mammals.
“Having a lot of cases recently in Michigan is unusual and that is why we're actively looking for that virus in our community,” said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Medical Officer of Health for Windsor-Essex.
A public health emergency has been declared in Michigan as the virus has been blamed for five deaths this year.
In total, there have been 10 cases — more than the last 10 years combined.
“It's not totally unusual to have a case in a year but to have this many cases in one year is very unusual,” said Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Sutfin says the state, for the first time since 1980, has used low-flying airplanes to spray the pesticide Merus 3.0 to deal with the outbreak.
“This is a very unusual thing for us to do is that we did aerial spraying in 14 counties to help combat Eastern Equine Encephalitis,” said Sutfin.
The health unit says EEE is rare to contract, but can potentially have serious health effects in humans. Although a number of cases and deaths have been reported in southwest Michigan, there have been no human cases of EEE identified in Windsor-Essex — or across Canada.
“Despite the recent cooler temperature in the region, it might not be cold enough to eliminate the risk posed by mosquitoes,” said Ahmed.
According to Ahmed, the risk of contracting the virus is low, especially in urban areas, but the consequences can be life change as the neurological damage the virus can cause can be permanent.
“The concern about the disease itself once if someone is infected with it and they develop any kind of neurological complications, it can be fatal, and I think that's the key message is protection,” said Ahmed.
The health unit is urging residents to continue to protect themselves against mosquitoes by removing any standing water and to take personal protective measures to avoid mosquito bites.
Health unit officials say they will continue to monitor for EEE activity and distribute educational materials in the area where the positive mosquito pool was identified. For more information, visit our website www.wechu.org.