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E-M:/ DNR Officials Confirm Three Additional Cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Enviro-Mich message from "Richard Morscheck" <morscher@michigan.gov>

October 5, 2005

Contact: Steve Schmitt or Dan O'Brien 517-336-5030, Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014					
DNR Officials Confirm Two Additional Cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Kent County Deer and One Case in a Deer from Montcalm County

The Department of Natural Resources, collaborating with Michigan State University, has confirmed two additional cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in deer from Kent County and one case in a deer from Montcalm County. This brings the total of EEE-positive deer in Kent County to four and statewide to five. 

The four Kent County infected deer originated in Cannon and Plainfield townships just north of Grand Rapids. The positive deer in Montcalm County was from Fair Plain Township east of Greenville. Montcalm County is adjacent to Kent County. The Michigan Department of Agriculture also recently confirmed three cases of EEE in horses in Michigan, including two in Kent County.

The deer specimens were submitted for testing by the public after some deer in Kent County were observed behaving abnormally.  A media report speculated that the deer had Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), but all have tested negative for CWD. Testing by DNR and MSU scientists at the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health have confirmed EEE in five of the seven deer presented for testing, according to DNR Wildlife Veterinarian Steve Schmitt. Michigan becomes only the second state in the country to document EEE in free-ranging white-tailed deer. The first case was documented in 2001 in Georgia.

EEE is transmitted by mosquitoes, much like West Nile Virus. There is a human health risk to EEE, as humans who are bitten by mosquitoes carrying the disease can become fatally ill, cautioned Michigan Community Health Department Director Janet D. Olszewski. It is possible that a person could become infected with EEE by getting brain or spinal cord matter from an infected deer in their eyes, lungs, or in skin wounds. The last case of EEE in a human in Michigan was documented in 2002. While rare, state health officials urged citizens to take extra precautions against EEE by taking action to reduce mosquito populations; using insect repellents for personal protection from bites; keeping tight screens on windows, doors and porches; and using protective clothing.

"It is encouraging that citizens have an increased awareness of wildlife disease and, with the help of county sheriff's deputies were willing to bring these deer to our attention," said DNR Director Rebecca Humphries. "We encourage any citizen who observes a deer that is obviously sick and behaving abnormally to contact the closest DNR field office during business hours or the DNR Report All Poaching (RAP) Line after 5 p.m. and on the weekends to provide critical information so we can continue to monitor EEE in this region." A list of Wildlife Offices can be found on the Web at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr, by clicking on Hunting and scrolling down to Contact Information.

The DNR RAP Line is available 24 hours a day at 800-292-7800. Reports of deer that appear to be sick can also be made online at the DNR Web site at https://secure1.state.mi.us/rap/ 

DNR officials urged hunters entering the fall hunting season to exercise extra caution while hunting in Kent and Montcalm Counties. Hunters should observe the following safety procedures recommended by the DNR since 2002:

*  Hunters should not handle or consume wild animals that appear sick or act abnormally, regardless of the cause.
*  Always wear heavy rubber or latex gloves when field dressing deer.
*  Minimize contact with brain or spinal tissues. Do not cut into the head of any deer that behaved abnormally even to remove the rack.  When removing antlers from healthy deer, use a hand saw rather than a power saw, and always wear safety glasses.
*  Bone out the carcass, keeping both the head and spine intact.
*  Wash hands with soap and water after handling carcasses and before and after handling meat.
*  Thoroughly sanitize equipment and work surfaces used during processing with bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon water). Consider keeping a separate set of knives used only for butchering deer.

Humphries noted that hunters and the general public should not dispatch any deer that they suspect might be infected with EEE but instead report abnormally-behaving deer to the DNR immediately.  It is critical that these deer be properly euthanized to preserve organs for testing.  "Timely and proper collection of deer specimens is crucial to accurate diagnosis," Humphries said.

EEE is transmitted by mosquitoes that usually frequent hardwood swamps. Mosquitoes that have fed on birds carrying EEE can transmit the disease to horses, deer and humans. The state has documented cases of EEE in horses in southern Michigan for at least 40 years, and a vaccine to protect horses is available. Horses, and probably deer, do not develop high enough levels of EEE virus in their blood to be contagious to other animals or humans by direct contact alone. 

For more information on EEE and other emerging diseases in Michigan, visit the Michigan Emerging Diseases Web site at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases. 

The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural resources for current and future generations.


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