Officials are set to conduct aerial mosquito treatment in 10 Michigan counties that are considered high risk for the deadly disease Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed 22 cases of EEE in horses across Michigan. Officials are also investigating additional possible animal cases.
No human cases have been confirmed as of Sunday, but the number of cases in horses is twice as many as officials had confirmed at this time last year, according to MDHHS.
Health officials have determined a targeted aerial treatment plan is necessary. They said EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33% fatality rate for people who get sick.
Humans can get EEE from one bite by a mosquito carrying the virus, officials said.
People younger than 15 and older than 50 are at the greatest risk of getting seriously sick from the infection. More than 25% of the country’s EEE cases last year were diagnosed in Michigan, MDHHS officials said.
Here are the counties scheduled to receive aerial treatment:
- Barry County
- Clare County
- Ionia County
- Isabella County
- Jackson County
- Kent County
- Mecosta County
- Montcalm County
- Newaygo County
- Oakland County
The treatment is scheduled to being Wednesday evening, but it’s dependent on weather conditions.
“We are taking this step in an effort to protect the health and safety of Michiganders in areas of the state where we know mosquitoes are carrying this potentially deadly disease,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “As people are spending more time outdoors because of COVID-19, they also need to be protecting themselves from mosquito bites.”
Signs of EEE infection include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches which can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Anyone who thinks they might be experiencing these symptoms should contact a medical provider.
Permanent brain damage, coma and death can also occur in some cases.
The Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development issued an emergency rule temporarily amending the rule on notification and participation for community pesticide applications for aerial spraying treatment across affected counties. This means mosquito control treatment will be required for those areas that are identified by the aerial treatment plan, with exception of federal properties and tribal lands.
“As recent history has shown us, EEE can strike fast and it can be deadly to humans and animals,” MDARD Director Gary McDowell said. “MDARD fully supports the work and commitment of MDHHS to protect public health, which is why we have removed an obstacle that might have prevented them from taking action quickly.”
More areas could be selected for treatment if new human or animal cases are confirmed outside of the currently identified zones.
Aerial treatment is conducted by specialized aircraft, beginning in the early evening and continuing up until the following dawn. State-certified mosquito control professionals will apply an approved pesticide as an ultra-low volume (ULV) spray. ULV sprayers dispense very fine aerosol droplets that stay suspended in the air and kill adult mosquitoes on contact.
In general, health risks are not expected during or after spraying, according to authorities. No special precautions are recommended, but anyone with known sensitivities to pyrethrins can reduce potential for exposure by staying indoors during treatment.
Aerial treatment is not expected to have any impacts on surface water or drinking water, officials said. Monitoring in 2019 when more than 557,000 Michigan acres were treated found no increased human, animal or insect adverse effects associated with aerial treatment.