MDHHS maps out Tuesday aerial spraying for EEE

Southwest Michigan

In this photo taken on Sept. 11, 2019, mosquitoes stand in a cage in a laboratory at the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies in Panama City. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — In response to the outbreak of rare but dangerous Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has revealed where aerial spraying for mosquitoes will take place Tuesday evening.

A low-flying, small plane deployed a low dose of the pesticide over designated areas starting around 7:30 p.m. Monday. Crews will continue to treat more areas in the same manner on Tuesday.

An updated map shows areas slated for treatment Tuesday night include sections of Berrien, Allegan, Barry, Cass, Calhoun, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. If weather prevents one area from being sprayed, areas of Kent, Montcalm or Newaygo counties could be treated. 

On Monday, more than 128,000 acres were treated. Officials say some of the planned treatment zones were only partially completed and will be on Tuesday’s schedule.

Enough residents in Kalamazoo County and Portage opted out of aerial spraying that the state no longer plans to spray those areas. The announcement came after Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell stated he could not support the measure because “the spraying of pesticides by airplane over the entire city raises too many unanswered questions and concerns for me.”

The MDHHS says crews will be applying 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. Concerned beekeepers are encouraged to put wet burlap over their hives.

State scientists say only one tablespoon of insecticide would be used per acre. Before some areas opted out, approximately 720,000 acres were originally slated to be sprayed at the cost of up to $1.8 million.

The state health department says there are no general health risks to people, pets or animals during or after the spraying. While surface and drinking water shouldn’t be affected, the state is encouraging people to cover small ornamental fishponds during the night of spraying.

However, people with sensitivities to pyrethrins are encouraged to stay inside during spraying. While it’s not necessary, concerned pet owners can also bring their animals inside during spraying.

Over the weekend, health officials confirmed a deer from Allegan County and an animal in Livingston County contracted EEE, bringing the total to 33 confirmed animal cases in 15 counties, including Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Genesee, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren.

Friday, Berrien County health officials confirmed another human case of EEE, bringing the total to nine people sickened in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties. Of those nine people, three people from Kalamazoo, Van Buren and Cass counties have died.

Numerous school districts have shifted sports schedules to end games and practices before dusk, when mosquitoes peak.

Tuesday, the Grand Rapids Public Schools released the following sports schedule revisions for the week:

Tuesday:

  • Ottawa Hills boys soccer games moved to 3:30 p.m. (JV) and 5 p.m. (varsity) at Forest Hills Central
  • Middle school football: GRPS-Red vs. Kelloggsville moved to 5 p.m. at Houseman Field
  • Union soccer moved to 4 p.m. (varsity) and 5:45 p.m. (JV) at the Rockford football field

Wednesday:

  • Middle school football: GRPS-Orange vs. Lee moved to 5 p.m. at Wyoming Lee High School

Friday:

  • No middle school athletics
  • Ottawa Hills varsity football game vs. Lowell moved to 5 p.m. at Red Arrow Stadium in Lowell
  • Union varsity football game vs. Mona Shores moved to 5 p.m. at Houseman Field

Saturday:

  • Ottawa swim invitational moved to Union High School pool; 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The threat will remain until the mosquito population is killed off by the first hard freeze, which Storm Team 8 says may not happen until mid-October in southwestern counties.

Even in areas that have been sprayed, authorities are reminding people to wear insect repellent with DEET and to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts 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.

EEE can first appear as fever, chills and aches. In serious cases, the disease progresses to encephalitis with headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis, which can cause brain damage and death. While it’s rare for a human to get EEE, a third of those who get sick will die, health officials say.

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Online:

MDHHS: EEE outbreak response

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