PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Some southwestern Michigan schools have moved sporting events to earlier in the day so they’ll end before dusk amid the state’s worst outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in a decade.
The districts are following a state recommendation after three people in southwest Michigan died of EEE, a rare mosquito-borne illness. Mosquitoes may be more active at dusk.
The following Friday football games have been rescheduled:
- Cassopolis at Bangor: 4 p.m.
- Kalamazoo Central at Loy Norrix: 5 p.m.
- Lawton at Delton Kellogg: 5:30 p.m. (All other Delton Kellogg athletic events this week also moved up to end before dusk
- Paw Paw at Dowagiac: 5:15 p.m.
- Perry at Lake Odessa Lakewood: 5 p.m.
- Battle Creek Central at Portage Central: 5:30 p.m.
- Mattawan at Niles: 5:30 p.m. (All Mattawan events this week rescheduled to end before dusk)
- Plainwell at South Haven: 5:15 p.m. (Homecoming parade steps off at 4:30 p.m.)
- Three Rivers at Sturgis: 5 p.m.
- Centreville at White Pigeon: 5 p.m. (JV between White Pigeon and host Centreville now 5 p.m. Thursday)
- Thornapple Kellogg at Wayland: 5:30 p.m.
Additionally, Kalamazoo Public Schools said Thursday’s Kalamazoo Central JV soccer game at Battle Creek Lakeview and Loy Norrix JV soccer game at Battle Creek Central have been canceled, with both varsity team games bumped back to 5 p.m.
Mattawan Consolidated Schools also sprayed its property for mosquitoes, reduced outdoor activities and even canceled some field trips.
“We try to encourage as little outdoor activity as possible, especially any activities, any sporting events or practices, band practices that happen near or after dusk,” Mattawan Superintendent Robin Buckler told News 8 over the phone Wednesday. “This week we moved all of our sporting events and practices earlier.”
Paw Paw Public Schools said it is providing bug spray for sports teams and reminding fans to wearing long clothing to dusk sporting events.
“We have one event tonight (Wednesday) that would have extended beyond dusk and that is our soccer game. We had two games scheduled for tonight: a JV and a varsity game, so … we’re not going to play the JV game and we’re going to back up the start time of the varsity game to 5 p.m. so that our teams can finish up before dusk,” Paw Paw Superintendent Rick Reo said.
He said he has been in close contact with county health officials to make sure he is taking the appropriate action.
“I think we’re taking it very seriously and we’re trying to follow all the recommendations from the experts,” Reo said.
Three Rivers also moved up a Wednesday soccer game to end before dusk. That school’s superintendent said his district is taking precautions and working to reduce the risk for players and spectators.
Portage Public Schools said it’s not moving up its football game, though it will take precautions. It says it has less concern about mosquitoes around its football field because they don’t thrive in AstroTurf. Kalamazoo Public Schools also aren’t making any changes.
So far this summer, Michigan has recorded seven human cases of EEE in Barry (1), Berrien (1), Cass (1), Kalamazoo (3) and Van Buren (1) counties. Three of the cases have proven fatal; one in each Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
It’s unusual for humans to contract EEE, but when they do, it can be deadly. About one in three people sickened by the virus will die from it.
Health officials are reminding people to take steps to deter mosquitoes, including using repellents with DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants at dawn and dusk.
The threat will remain until the first hard frost, which Storm Team 8 says likely won’t be until mid-October for southwestern lakeshore counties.