Image courtesy of ABC

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been making its rounds in Michigan this year with a record number of cases. This year alone there have been more cases than Michigan has seen in the last decade.

EEE is a virus that is only transmitted when a person or animal is bitten by an infected mosquito. The virus has been a threat to humans since 1938 but a vaccine or specific medication has not been approved. The only protection from EEE for humans is provided by controlling the mosquito population and limiting one’s exposure to mosquitoes. Any mammal is at some risk of contracting EEE but humans and equine animals like horses, donkeys, and zebras are the animals that have the highest risk of infection. 

After being bitten by a mosquito it takes four to ten days for symptoms to appear. In milder cases of EEE symptoms are similar to that of the flu, fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, and nausea that lasts for one to two weeks before a full recovery. In more severe cases the virus attacks the nervous system and causes swelling of the brain; these cases often lead to severe brain damage or death. As of October 4th, 2019, EEE has infected 9 people and 34 animals across the state. Of the humans that were infected 4 have died. 

With perfect mosquito weather in the forecast, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services decided to spray for mosquitoes in the high risk areas of Michigan. Spraying was scheduled for September 29th however it was postponed until the next day and spraying has been conducted overnight 8pm to 4:30am every night since. The pesticide being sprayed is called Merus 3.0. The active ingredient in Merus 3.0 is pyrethrin, commonly used in farms and gardens to control mosquitoes, fleas, ants, and other small insects. The pesticide is being sprayed as a “ultra-low volume” spray from low flying airplanes. The spraying is not expected to have any impact on other animals or humans directly of indirectly and no precautions are being recommended.

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Michiganders are, however, being cautioned to do what they can to protect themselves from mosquitoes until the first hard frost of the year kills off the majority of the mosquito population and with it the EEE virus… at least until next year.

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