Livingston County has been added to areas set for aerial spraying to combat a rare mosquito-borne virus.
The outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) reached into Livingston County with confirmation on Friday that a horse in Hamburg Township had contracted the disease and had been euthanized. Health officials confirmed Monday evening that parts of Livingston and Washtenaw counties will be included in the spraying program. The communities being targeted include Hamburg and Green Oak townships in Livingston County and northern Northfield Township and Webster Township in Washtenaw County. All of those are within a 2.5-mile radius of the confirmed horse case of EEE. Aerial spraying of the pesticide began Monday night in Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Cass counties and was expected to continue until about 4:30 this morning. A determination has not been made, however, when spraying in Livingston and Washtenaw counties will take place.
Officials hope aerial spraying will reduce the mosquito population and make it less likely that humans or animals will contract EEE, a rare but dangerous virus that kills 33% of people it sickens. There is no treatment or cure for the disease and those who survive severe cases often are left with long-term neurological problems. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, EEE has been confirmed in nine people in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties. There have so far been three fatalities. The pesticide being used is Merus 3.0, which health officials say is an EPA-registered, organic botanical adult mosquito insecticide containing 5% pyrethrins which are naturally found in chrysanthemum flowers. Despite that, many residents have expressed concern about the spraying and any dangers it might present. State health officials say that residents can opt out of the aerial spraying, but add that this is a public health emergency and “aerial applications provide the most effective option to suppress the outbreak by reducing mosquito populations.
Due to the height and speed the plane will operate, officials say it is not possible to stop the spraying over a single property. If an individual wishes to opt out of the application, under Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development rules, an area of 1,000 x 1,000 feet would not be sprayed around the residence. However, it will reduce the overall treatment effectiveness in the area, mosquito populations upwind of the opt-out area will not be reduced, and neighbors will not benefit from the reduction in mosquito numbers.
Health officials ask residents that before exercising this option, they should keep in mind that EEE is highly deadly, and that this aerial spraying does not carry any significant risks to human health. “If, for whatever reason, you would still prefer that spraying not occur in your area, you may send an email with your name and full residential address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The request to opt out of spraying must be received at least 48 hours before spraying begins.” (JK)