Officials shed light on EEE risks amid pandemic

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. --- Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) made headlines in 2019 and the first human case has been confirmed in the Michiana area.

“One of those most dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses found in the United States,” Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad said.

In 2019, the Michiana area was just shy of 20 human cases, according to St. Joseph County Health Officer Robert Einterz said. Some of those cases were deadly.

“Those cases were devastating,” Environmental Health Supervisor Carrie Brunson said.

As of Wednesday, there is one confirmed human case in LaPorte County and two cases confirmed in horses in Kosciusko and LaGrange counties.

“EEE can be a serious threat, but right now in the face of the COVID-19, there is a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than there is of getting EEE,” Conrad said.

“Mosquitos don’t social distance, we can all social distance from ourselves, but mosquitos do not,” Brunson said.

During a time of a lot of uncertainty, there is one thing that can be controlled and that is taking precautions, according to health officials.

There is no need to call it quits on any outdoor plans, but if you are spending your Friday night under the lights or heading out for an early morning walk, make sure you cover up and use EPA certified bug repellant.

“Outdoors is going to be safer than indoors when it comes to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Conrad said. “And while we know mosquito-borne illnesses can pose a threat,

"the threat of those viruses are much less than COVID-19.”

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