Oakland County To Undergo Aerial Spraying Against Eastern Equine Encephalitis

The mosquito-borne illness has 33% fatality rate

WWJ News
September 14, 2020 - 3:18 pm

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(WWJ) Oakland County and nine other Michigan counties will undergo aerial spraying to combat Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), beginning Wednesday evening.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) says the mosquito-borne illness has been detected in 22 horses in the state this year. That is twice as many cases as last year, health officials say.  

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Two of the horses are in Oakland County, according to MDHHS. 

So far, no human cases have been detected. An EEE vaccine exists for horses, but not for humans.

Read the latest information on EEE from The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services here. 

When there are high rates of animal infections, humans are just as at risk,” a press release from the MDHHS reads.

Health officials call EEE “one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses” in the U.S. with 1 in three people who contract it passing away. People under the age of 15 and over the age of 50 have a higher risk of severe complications from the virus.

A person can get EEE by being bitten by a single mosquito that carries the virus.

“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,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, says in the release. “As people are spending more time outdoors because of COVID-19, they also need to be protecting themselves from mosquito bites.”

The following counties will also undergo aerial spraying for EEE: Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, and Newaygo.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

The MDHHS says pesticide, Merus 3.0, will be used for the spraying. They do not expect residents to experience any adverse health effects during or after the treatment. However, people who are particularly sensitive to pyrethrins are encouraged to stay inside during the process.

Monitoring of residents in areas treated with the spray last year found no health problems associated with the treatment, according to health officials.

Merus 3.0 kills adult mosquitos on contact. Treatment is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, but rain or severe weather may result in delays.

The aerial spraying will be conducted by a specialized aircraft during the night, from “early evening to the following dawn,” when mosquitos are most active. Health officials also say bees are more likely to be in their hives during that time, and fish are usually not surface feeding.

Health officials tell WWJ people with personal ponds should cover them up before the spraying. While it is not necessary to take your pets indoors during the aerial spray; “concerned pet owners may choose to do so,” the release reads.

Symptoms of EEE include:

- fever

- chills

- body and joint aches which can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

The MDHHS says residents should take the following steps to protect themselves from EEE.

“-Avoid being outdoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes carrying the EEE virus are most active.

-Applying insect repellents containing the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.

-Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.

-Maintaining window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.

-Emptying water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.

-Using nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.”

If you have questions about EEE or COVID, you can reach out to the MDHHS hotline at 1-888-535-6136.