The state’s health department has decided to go ahead with air spraying for mosquitoes without giving residents the option to opt out.
As of Sunday, September 13, the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been confirmed in 10 counties. The virus has been confirmed in 22 horses in Michigan this year. There have been no human cases.
Additional animal cases are under investigation, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This is twice the same animal cases as last year. The EEE vaccine is available for horses, but not for people.
Last year, 10 people in Michigan were infected and six died from the virus.
As a preventive measure, 10 counties have been selected to be sprayed on Wednesday 16 September, with cases confirmed in 2020.
Aerial spraying is scheduled in Barry, Claire, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Maxta, Montcalm, Nuego and Oakland counties.
One bite of a mosquito carrying the virus can infect people with EEE. According to MDHHS, people who get sick have a 33% lethal rate of the virus.
People over 15 years of age and above 50 years of age are at greatest risk of getting serious illness after infection. Last year, more than 25% of EEE cases in the country were diagnosed in Michigan.
MDHHS chief medical executive and head of health deputy dr. Jong Khaldun noted the intersection of the EEE session with COVID-19 in a statement released on Monday 14 September.
“We are taking this step in an effort to protect the health and safety of Michiganders in areas of the state where we know that mosquitoes are carrying this potentially deadly disease,” Khaldun said. “Since people are spending more time outside because of COVID-19, they also need to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
The World Health Organization has stated that there is no evidence that mosquitoes can carry COVID-19.
Signs of EEE infection include fever, chills, sudden onset of body and joint pain that can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis. Anyone who thinks they are experiencing these symptoms should contact a medical provider. In some cases permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur.
Last year, aerial spraying was proposed by the state health department. The proposal met with swift and fierce backlash in southwest Michigan, where most of the cases were. Enough residents in Kalamazoo County had chosen that most of the county had not been sprayed.
On Monday, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued an emergency rule that temporarily notified and amended the standard for community pesticide applications. Under the emergency rule, mosquito control treatment would be required for areas that are identified by federal remediation and aerial remediation plans with the exception of tribal lands.
The emergency rule outlines that a community mosquito control program typically takes weeks to provide information to residents and landowners in an affected area, and allows additional time to establish a framework for individual participation.
Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the notification and opt-out process has been temporarily suspended due to the severity and speediness of EEE.
McDowell said, “As recent history has shown us, EEE can strike faster and can be fatal to humans and animals.” “MDARD fully supports MDHHS’s work and commitment to protecting public health, which is why we have removed a barrier that probably prevents them from taking action quickly.”
Aerial treatment is operated by special aircraft, which begin in the evening and continue until the following morning. Treatment will be done using Merus 3.0, the same product will be used in 2019.
The Department of Health did not inspect any increased human, animal, or insect adverse effects associated with aerial treatments last year when more than 557,000 Michigan acres were treated with the same pesticide.
Residents with sensitivity to pyrethrin may be less likely to stay indoors during treatment.
The Health Department encourages residents to avoid mosquito bites by doing the following:
- Avoid going out from dawn to dusk when mosquitoes carrying the EES virus are most active.
- Apply insect repellents to exposed skin or clothing containing the active ingredient DEET, or other US Environmental Protection Agency-approved product, and always follow manufacturer’s instructions for use.
- Wear long-sleeved shirt and long pants when going out. Apply insect repellent on clothes to help prevent bites.
- Maintaining window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out.
- Emptying water from mosquito breeding places around the house such as buckets, unusable kiddie pools, old tires or similar places where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
- Using net and / or fans in outdoor dining areas.
More on MLive:
Trial for mosquito-borne EEE in Kormazoo County delayed by coronavirus epidemic
EEE, mosquito trapping begins in Kalamazoo County for Zika surveillance
Kalamazoo professor discusses ethics of mosquito spraying at statewide conference