In college, athletes are faced with various challenges throughout their four year career. From injuries to weather prohibited games, athletes have seen it all.
They have learned to become adaptable when facing any obstacle. However, current athletes now have a new unexpected obstacle to face that is leaving the community buzzing.
This new obstacle is Eastern Equine Encephalitis (Triple E or EEE). It has recently been rapidly spreading throughout Michigan with multiple cases appearing in at least eleven different counties, such as Kalamazoo, Jackson, Lapeer, and others.
At least three people have already been diagnosed and have died as a result of this deadly virus, which has quickly grabbed the attention of Michigan residents.
“EEE is not something that has ever been on my radar until recently. As a healthcare professional, I knew I needed to educate myself once I started seeing it pop-up on the news. I have gotten most of my information from Michigan.gov/ emerging dieases,” said athletic trainer Catherine Boerner.
Many people are taking it upon themselves to become educated on what Triple E is and how to protect themselves and notice the signs, such as headaches, fevers, seizures, comas and even death.
As to how this relates to athletes, it all comes down to how the virus is transferred, which is through mosquitos. Triple E can impact anyone and is spread through certain types of mosquitos.
“EEE is found primarily in areas with swamps and bogs. The risk of bites from infected mosquitoes is highest for people who work or play outdoors in these areas. Wearing insect repellent when outdoors (especially at dawn and dusk) is important to prevent EEE,” said Boerner.
Therefore, Triple E can impact anyone, but the odds of an athlete encountering it become increasingly higher as a result of early-morning or late-night practices.
Many Alma College teams practice during dusk or dawn to accommodate for the athletes’ class schedules, which prohibits teams from having mid-day practices.
Since practice times cannot often be moved, the athletic training staff has Bug Repellant with DEET on hand for all outdoor sports teams to use.
The importance of this is to stress precaution and to make athletes feel comfortable while practicing or playing.
“If you don’t feel comfortable being outdoors, speak up! Talk with your coach about your concerns and try to come up with a solution. Otherwise, the best thing you can do if having an early morning or late-night practice is to utilize strong bug spray with DEET and wear long sleeves and pants/leggings,” said Boerner.
Practice times are often uncontrollable, such as the Men’s Lacrosse team’s being from 7 to 9p.m. Therefore, it is up to the athlete, along with the athletic staff’s advice, to take precaution when practicing during the dangerous time frame.
“I have been worried about the virus and to try and protect myself, I have used bug spray and have been wearing long sleeves to protect my skin from being bitten at these late hours,” said Tom Needham (’20).
Although no cases have occurred in the Gratiot County area yet, it never hurts to be safe or throw on an extra layer of clothes before practice.