First spray for mosquito-borne EEE causes some concern

Southwest Michigan

LAWTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An airplane flew low over southern Van Buren County Monday evening, spraying a chemical that authorities say kills mosquitoes and other pests but is harmless to humans and their pets.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services decided to spray after animals in 14 counties were found to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The disease can be deadly when contracted by humans. It has been blamed for three deaths already this year.

Spraying started at around 7:30 p.m. Monday. A News 8 crew noticed an aircraft flying lover one of the spray zone in the Lawton area at around 8 p.m. The aircraft flew in a back-and-forth east-west pattern, starting in the northern part of the spray zone and moving south with each pass.

Nothing could be observed coming from the aircraft in the dark sky and nothing was seen hitting the ground. There was no noticeable odor left behind. It’s likely that residents not looking for the aircraft didn’t notice it.

But some were looking for it.

Marc Sing and his girlfriend Jessica Bates noticed the airplane and started following its path. They said they wondered about the chemicals the airplane was releasing.

“I’m a little bit skeptical,” Sing told News 8 as the aircraft flew overhead. “I’ve been doing a little bit of research online and just some of the stuff I’ve read, none of it has been good.”

State health officials assure the community that the spray is safe. The chemical being released is Merus 3.0 — an organic pesticide with 5% pyrethrin, which is found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers, MDHHS says. Officials say the mixture is deadly for mosquitoes and some other pests but safe for humans and pets.

The sprays are strategically planned for the evening hours when mosquitoes are most active and honeybees that can also be killed by the spray are not.

While some have concerns about the chemical, there is also concern about EEE. Bates says she hopes the spraying alleviates some of the fear.

“I’m sick of seeing co-workers have to send their children to school with bug spray for recess,” Bates said.

Spraying is expected to continue; the state will have updates online listing which areas are being sprayed and when. The schedule has been modified some due to weather. With rain in the forecast over the next several days, it’s possible other changes will occur.

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