LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Spraying for mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis will focus on six West Michigan counties Friday night.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says between dusk and 4:30 a.m., crews in low-flying aircraft will treat portions of Kent, Allegan, Montcalm, Calhoun, Van Buren and Newaygo counties, weather permitting.
The MDHHS says so far, 328,387 acres of land have been sprayed with an ultra-low dose of the organic insecticide, Merus 3.0.
Merus 3.0 contains 5% pyrethrin, which is found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers, the MDHHS says. Officials say the mixture is deadly for mosquitoes and some other pests but safe for humans and pets.
As of Wednesday, the state had confirmed nine human cases of EEE in six counties: Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren. Four people have died from the mosquito-borne infection, including 79-year-old Stan Zalner of Battle Creek and 64-year-old Gregg McChesney of Richland. The other people killed came from Cass and Van Buren counties.
EEE has also sickened 33 animals in 15 counties: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren. MDHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said all 18 horses, 13 deer and 2 rare wolf pups died from the infection.
EEE is one of the most dangerous diseases mosquitoes transmit. Although human cases are rare, approximately one in three people visibly sickened by EEE will die from it.
Symptoms include fever, chills and body aches. Severe cases can lead to headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, brain damage, coma and death.
EEE is more deadly among horses, with a fatality rate of 90%, but there is a vaccine for horses and not humans.
In addition to spraying areas that have not opted out of treatment, MDHHS is urging people to deter disease-carrying mosquitoes by using repellents containing DEET on their body and clothes and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Officials from Kalamazoo County announced Friday they would be stocking homeless shelters and senior centers with 400-500 containers of insect repellent containing DEET. The Kalamazoo city office and Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department will also be carrying repellent for distribution.
Residents are also encouraged to dump out any standing water in their yard and replace window and door screens with tears or holes that a mosquito could pass through.
The MDHHS says the risk of EEE should be eliminated when mosquitoes carrying the infection are killed by the first hard frost.
MDHHS on mosquito-borne diseases