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State to use aerial pesticide spraying to try to curb spread of EEE

A mosquito
flickr user trebol-a
Mosquito picando

For the first time since 1980, the state will use aerial pesticide spraying to try to curb the spread of a mosquito-borne virus.

The virus is Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). There have been nine reported human cases in Michigan so far, three of them fatal. There have also been 27 cases reported in animals, all of them fatal.

Update: Monday, September 30, 7:43 a.m.

Wet weather Sunday night caused the state of Michigan to postpone its aerial spraying plan against mosquitos.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will announce an update to its treatment plan Monday.

Check for updates at michigan.gov/eee.

And the state won't spray in the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage because enough residents in those communities decided to opt out of the treatment plan.

Original post: Friday, September 27, 9:40 p.m. Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says the spraying will cover areas in 14 west and mid-Michigan counties: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren.

The spraying should cover about 720,000 acres total, according to Sutfin. “What we’re doing is looking at where the cases are, and kind of going in like a 2.5 mile radius from those cases. That is typically the range of this particular mosquito,” she said.

Sutfin says the state will use an ultra-low volume spray of Merus 3.0, an organic pesticide that’s a mix of six chemicals toxic to insects.

“They’re looking at about an ounce an acre. And an acre’s about a size of a football field,” Sutfin said. “So this is not a lot of what’s being used here. If you are outside during the spray time, even if it happens over you, you would probably not even notice it.”

Sutfin says no human health risks are expected. The spraying is set to begin Sunday evening starting around 8 p.m. and continuing through about 4:30 a.m., but the timing could change depending on weather conditions.

The late night/early morning spray time is meant to mitigate potentially harmful impacts on bees and butterflies, which are usually “bedded down for the night,” Sutfin said. The spraying should take two nights total.

Although the spraying is meant to reduce human risk of exposure to EEE, “it’s not going to eliminate it,” Sutfin said. “So we are still asking that residents continue to protect themselves, even if they’ve had spraying in their area.”

Preventative measures include wearing long sleeves and pants, using mosquito repellant that contains DEET, and avoiding outdoor activities from dusk through sunrise.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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