The state health department has decided to encourage airborne mosquito spraying without giving residents an option to log out.
Potentially fatal mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) had been confirmed in 10 counties by Sunday, September 13. The virus was confirmed in 22 horses in Michigan that year. No human cases have been reported.
Other animal cases are being investigated, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This is twice as many animal cases as at the same time last year. There is an EEE vaccine for horses, but not for humans.
Last year in Michigan, 10 people were infected and six died from the virus.
As a preventive measure, the 10 districts with confirmed cases in 2020 were selected to be sprayed on Wednesday September 16.
Air spray is planned in Barry, Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Oakland counties.
People can become infected with electrical and electronic equipment with a bite from a mosquito that carries the virus. According to MDHHS, the virus has a 33% death rate in people who get sick.
People under the age of 15 and over 50 have the greatest risk of developing serious illnesses after infection. More than 25% of the country’s EEE cases last year were diagnosed in Michigan.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical officer and assistant health officer, noted in a statement released Monday September 14th that the EEE season coincides with the ongoing COVID-19.
“We are taking this step to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents in areas of the state where we know mosquitoes are known to transmit this potentially fatal disease,” Khaldun said. “As people spend more time outdoors due to COVID-19, they also need to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
The World Health Organization has determined that there is no evidence that mosquitoes can carry COVID-19.
Signs of EEE infection include sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint pain, which can lead to severe encephalitis leading to headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and paralysis. Anyone who thinks they have these symptoms should see a doctor. In some cases, permanent brain damage, coma, and death can also occur.
Airborne spraying was suggested by the state health department last year. The proposal met with quick and violent backlash in southwest Michigan, where most of the cases occurred. Enough residents in Kalamazoo County have checked out that most of the county has not been sprayed.
On Monday, Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued an emergency rule temporarily changing the standard for reporting and participating in pesticide use in the community. Under the Emergency Rule, mosquito control is required for the areas listed in the Air Treatment Plan, with the exception of federal land and tribal areas.
The emergency rule states that a community mosquito control program typically takes weeks to notify residents and landowners in an affected area and that additional time is available to provide a framework for individual participation.
The notification and opt-out process has been temporarily suspended due to the seriousness and speed of the electrical and electronic equipment, said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development.
“As recent history has shown, electrical and electronic equipment can strike quickly and be fatal to people and animals,” said McDowell. “MDARD fully supports the work and commitment of MDHHS to protect public health. We have therefore removed an obstacle that may have prevented them from taking quick action.”
The air treatment is carried out by special aircraft, starting in the early evening and until the next dawn. Treatment is performed with Merus 3.0, the same product that was used in 2019.
The health department saw no increased air treatment-related side effects from humans, animals or insects last year when more than 557,000 acres of Michigan were treated with the same pesticide.
Residents known to be sensitive to pyrethrins can reduce the potential for exposure by staying indoors during treatment.
The health department continues to encourage residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites by doing the following:
- Avoid being outdoors from dusk until dawn, when mosquitoes with the EEE virus are most active.
- Apply insect repellant containing DEET or another US Environmental Protection Agency approved product to exposed skin or clothing and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to prevent bites.
- Maintenance of window and door screens to keep mosquitos out.
- Emptying water from mosquito breeding sites in the house, such as buckets, unused children’s pools, old tires or similar places where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
- Using nets and / or fans over outdoor dining areas.
More about MLive:
Tests on mosquito-borne electrical and electronic equipment in Kalamazoo County that have been delayed by a coronavirus pandemic
Mosquito trapping begins in Kalamazoo County for Electrical & Electronic Equipment Monitoring and Zika
The Kalamazoo professor discusses the ethics of mosquito spraying at a national conference