DNR Officials Confirm Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Deer

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The Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Disease Lab, collaborating with Michigan State University, has confirmed two additional cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in deer - one from Otisco Township in Ionia County and an additional deer from Grand Rapids Township in Kent County. These cases bring the total number of EEE-positive deer to seven statewide. All of the deer that have tested positive come from an approximately 25 mile-wide area in Kent, southwest Montcalm and northwest Ionia counties.

The seven positive deer were among two dozen submitted for testing to date from the area by archery hunters and the general public. All were sick or behaving abnormally. All have been tested as well for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), and all were negative.

The virus that causes EEE is transmitted by mosquitoes that have fed on infected songbirds. Mosquitoes can also transmit the disease to deer, horses and humans. The last recorded human case in Michigan was in 2002. There is no evidence that humans can be infected with EEE by handling or eating an infected animal.

A small number of infections in laboratory workers have resulted from inhaling aerosols of tissues, such as the brain, in which the virus is present, or getting those tissues in the eyes or skin wounds. Although far more likely to be exposed to EEE by mosquito bites, deer hunters, because of their possible contact with brain and spinal cord matter during processing, are urged to take common-sense precautions. These include not handling or eating animals that appear sick or act abnormally, wearing rubber gloves when field dressing deer, avoiding contact with brain and spinal tissues, and thoroughly washing and sanitizing their hands and processing equipment.

Hunters and the general public should not kill abnormally-behaving deer themselves, but instead report them to the closest DNR field office during business hours or the DNR Report all Poaching Line at (800) 292-7800 after hours and on weekends.

For more information on EEE, including detailed information addressing hunters' concerns, visit the Michigan Emerging Diseases Web site at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases, and follow the link for "Current Issues in Michigan - EEE."