KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo County health officials say the entire county will avoid aerial spraying for mosquitoes because of widespread requests to opt out of the treatment aimed at preventing Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
The Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department said Monday that the number of residents who opted out of the spraying covered a large enough area that aerial spraying would be ineffective in killing Kalamazoo County’s adult mosquitoes.
The health department said it endorsed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ spraying plan along with 13 other county health departments “given the ongoing risk of EEE infection in Kalamazoo County.”
So far there are 30 confirmed animal cases of EEE in 15 counties and nine human cases in six counties. Kalamazoo County has had the most confirmed cases in both categories — at least six animals and three people, including a man who died.
The MDHHS’ plan calls for crews in low-flying planes to apply Merus 3.0 — an organic pesticide containing 5% pyrethrin, which is found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers. The mixture of six chemicals in Merus 3.0 is toxic to insects including mosquitoes, fleas, flies, moths, ants and other pests.
The state said while spraying could kill some pollinators, the work will be done after dusk when mosquitoes are most active and bees have returned to their hives.
MDHHS also said there are no general health risks to people, pets or animals during or after the spraying.
However, some people voiced concerns about the plan, including beekeepers and Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, who stated Friday that he could not support the move because “the spraying of pesticides by airplane over the entire city raises too many unanswered questions and concerns for me.”
Residents were allowed to opt out of aerial spraying as long as they notified the state at least 48 hours before the treatment.
According to MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin, as of Sunday night the state had already received 1,200 opt-out requests. Updated numbers were not available Monday afternoon.
“When an individual opts out, we can’t do it property by property. And so when that happens, it’s a 1,000 by 1,000-foot area, so that does cut down on the effectiveness of the aerial treatment,” Sutfin explained.
Kalamazoo County health officials are still urging residents to wear insect repellent with DEET and to wear long pants and sleeves when outdoor at dusk and down, when mosquitoes may be more active. If you can, avoid going out at dusk and dawn.
Make sure the screens at your home are tightly fitted and in good shape to keep mosquitoes out. Get rid of standing water on your property, where mosquitoes breed.
Areas in Southwest Michigan where confirmed cases of EEE are concentrated will be the first to get aerial spraying Monday evening, weather permitting.
— News 8 Reporter Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report.
MDHHS: EEE outbreak response