After slow start to mosquito season, health officials track population

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — County health departments in Michigan are monitoring mosquitoes for viruses as recent heavy rains are expected to lead to an increase in the population.

Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services is running its own Eastern Equine Encephalitis surveillance program for the first time this year.

Lucas Pols, the environmental health supervisor, says dry conditions appear to have kept numbers low in the early part of the mosquito season.

“You’re out and about and you just don’t see any mosquitoes in the dry time and then you get a rain, you get in some of the boggy areas and you’ll start seeing an increase,” Pols said.

Five traps are placed around the county specifically designed to attract the type of mosquitoes known to transmit EEE.

“They’re basically a planter box that…. we’ve painted black and we set that up in a boggy area,” Pols said.

According to Pols, the county has not had a test come back positive this year.

Kalamazoo County first started monitoring for Zika virus using a different style trap in 2017.

While the EEE virus is rare, about a third of people who are sickened by it do not survive. Last year, four people in the state died from EEE. All confirmed human cases in 2020 occurred in Barry and Montcalm counties.

In 2019, six people died from the virus in Michigan with 10 diagnosed human cases.

“The goal is not to wait until someone gets EEE or an animal gets EEE and say ‘yes it’s in our community,’ but to trap these mosquitoes, have them tested,” Pols said.  

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health will begin its yearly mosquito surveillance program this week.

Matthew Allen, the environmental health supervisor for the county, says an increase in rain and standing water will not lead to growth in the population overnight.

“They generally say about seven days for mosquitoes to breed and reach adulthood,” Allen said.

Even without reports of high numbers of mosquitoes so far this year, experts say you should still take precautions to reduce your risk.

“Mosquito repellent that has DEET in it, light color clothing seems to be better in not attracting them and getting rid of any stand water you have around your properties,” Allen said.

Limiting outdoor activities from dusk to dawn can also reduce risk, along with wearing long clothing.

While Kalamazoo and Ottawa counties have not had any confirmed mosquito-borne virus cases this year, there can be a lag time of several days or weeks before they show up in the data.

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