CALHOUN COUNTY, MI — A fourth person has died in Michigan from the outbreak of a mosquito-borne illness in the state.
The fourth human fatality related to Eastern equine encephalitis was reported Wednesday, Oct. 2, to the Michigan Department of Heath and Human Services, department spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said.
The person killed was a resident of Battle Creek, according to the Calhoun County Public Health Department.
To date, there are nine confirmed human cases in the state. The latest fatality was reported in Calhoun County. Earlier fatalities due to the disease were reported in Kalamazoo, Van Buren and Cass counties. The nine human cases also include residents from Berrien and Barry counties, according to MDHHS.
Aerial spraying of pesticides to kill mosquitoes and combat the illness is scheduled to continue Wednesday in counties throughout Southwest Michigan, and potentially in other areas of the state.
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, about 86,016 acres were treated, MDHHS said, bringing the total acreage treated for mosquitoes as part of the statewide effort to 186,146.
After plans to begin the treatments over the weekend were canceled due to weather, spraying began Monday night in four Southwest Michigan counties: Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Van Buren.
The areas slated for treatment Wednesday are identified in the state’s updated Aerial Treatment Zones Map, and include portions of Allegan, Van Buren, Calhoun and Barry counties. Treatment in these areas is weather permitted and will be rescheduled if needed, Sutfin said.
If weather prevents treatment in those four Southwest Michigan counties, the state’s plan also lists additional areas in the following counties as potential, “weather alternative” sites for treatment Wednesday: Calhoun, Jackson, Kent, Lapeer, Livingston, Montcalm, Newaygo and Washtenaw.
Kalamazoo County has more cases of EEE — five equine, three human and two bovine — than any other Michigan county. It was previously scheduled for aerial treatment, but due to a high number of residential opt-out requests will no longer be treated.
Many residents in Kalamazoo County, and across the state, have expressed concerns about the type of pesticide being used and the impact spraying could have on honeybees, butterflies and other insects that play a major role in the ecosystem.
Aerial spraying is being done with the Merus 3.0 organic pesticide, which contains 5% pyrethrin and can be harmful to bees. While state officials have said that they spray at night due to the fact that most bees are in their hives, beekeepers have stated that not only are wild honeybees killed off, but that entire hives can be destroyed by the chemicals.
Individuals can still request to opt their property out of spraying. But in order to remove one’s property from the spray zone, a 48-hour notice in advance of scheduled spraying must be given to state officials. Due to weather-related delays, opt-out requests are still being coming in and being considered, Sutfin said.
“If an individual wishes to opt out of the application, under (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) rules, an area of 1,000 by 1,000 feet would not be sprayed around the residence,” Sutfin said. “Due to the height and speed the plane will operate, it is not possible to stop the spraying over a single property.”
Individuals can visit the state website for more information on spraying or to attempt to opt their property out of treatment. To attempt to opt out, individuals may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include their name and full residential address.
In addition to the nine human cases of EEE, there have been 33 reported animal deaths related to the mosquito-borne illness in Michigan. Eighteen of those were equine deaths, two were wolves at Binder Park Zoo and 13 more were deer. Of the 18 equine deaths, 17 have been horses and one, a donkey. Only one of those horses was confirmed to have been vaccinated against EEE, according to the Equine Disease Communication Center.
There is an equine vaccination for EEE; however there is no canine or bovine vaccination available. Wolves, like dogs, are canine.
Less than 1% of people infected with the mosquito-borne illness will develop a serious neurological disease that causes inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues. About 33% of those people will die, according to MDHHS.