UPDATE: Due to a high number of opt-outs from residents, the entirety of Kalamazoo County will no longer be sprayed. This story has been updated to reflect that information.
LANSING, MI — After weather got in the way Sunday night, aerial spraying is once again scheduled to begin in lower Michigan Monday, Sept. 30.
Spraying, to combat fast-spreading, mosquito-borne illness Eastern equine encephalitis, was scheduled to begin in 14 counties on Sunday, Sept. 29. All planned spraying for Sunday was postponed due to inclement weather, state officials announced that evening.
Weather-dependent spraying will begin in four of those counties Monday evening, according to the most recent information provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Spraying is scheduled to occur in the following areas, listed by number on the planned treatment area map released by MDHHS:
- Area 3-1 in Berrien County
- Areas 5-1 and 5-2 in Cass County
- Areas 12-1, 12-2 and 12-3 in St. Joseph County
- Area 13-1 in Van Buren County
Spraying of the Merus 3.0 organic pesticide — which contains 5% pyrethrin — has not yet been rescheduled in nine of the 10 other counties, according to Lynn Sutfin, MDHHS spokeswoman.
Kalamazoo County is no longer scheduled to be sprayed.
“Due to the large amount of residents who have chosen to exercise their option to opt out under the (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) law, aerial application of insecticide will no longer be an effective treatment option for Kalamazoo County,” said James Rutherford, Health Officer Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services in a news release.
The other counties which are expected to be treated later this week are: Allegan, Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Jackson, Kent, Lapeer, Montcalm and Newaygo.
Two other counties, Washtenaw and Livingston, may be added to the list of treatment areas, Sutfin told MLive. A new treatment area that crosses into the two Southeast Michigan counties is reflected on an updated treatment map, pictured above, released by MDHHS.
Maps of all treatment areas without opt-out exclusions, broken down by county and zone, are also available on the state website.
Following numerous opt-out requests by residents in Kalamazoo and Portage, it was determined Sept. 29 that spraying will no longer occur in either of those two cities. The Kalamazoo County health department announced Monday afternoon that no aerial treatments will now occur anywhere in the county.
“I was elated (to hear about Kalamazoo and Portage successfully opting out), but sorry for the areas that will still be under the spraying,” Kalamazoo County Commissioner Mike Quinn said. “I have only received one communication in favor of spraying.”
Quinn had previously questioned the decision by state and local health officials to conduct aerial spraying in Kalamazoo County, expressing concerns for “collateral damage” to other species that could result.
When asked if there was a chance that other communities may effectively opt-out of aerial treatments entirely, Sutfin said it is unknown at this time, but that individual requests are still coming in.
According to Sutfin, opt-out requests “must be received at least 48 hours before spraying begins.”
Opt-out requests made after the initial Friday, Sept. 27, deadline are now being taken into consideration as the time in which spraying is scheduled to begin in many communities has been pushed back, Sutfin confirmed.
“If an individual wishes to opt out of the application, under MDARD rules, an area of 1,000 by 1,000 feet would not be sprayed around the residence,” she 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. The email must be received 48 hours before spraying begins in their community.
Sutfin cautioned residents to consider against opting-out; however, by considering the well-being of their neighbors.
“We are currently in a public health emergency and aerial applications are the most effective option to suppress the outbreak by reducing mosquito populations,” she said. “This 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.”
As of Sept. 29, there were reported deaths of three people and 30 animals, and nine people in total have been afflicted with EEE, according to MDHHS.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health with MDHHS, said that the state is “experiencing it’s largest ever outbreak” of the disease.
“This disease represents an emergent threat to Michigan’s public health and public health authorities must take decisive action to protect Michiganders,” Sutfin said. “Approximately 33% of people who develop a serious infection from EEE will die.”
Less than 1% of people infected with EEE will develop a serious neurological illness that causes inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues, according to MDHHS.
The aerial spraying scheduled to begin tonight marks the first time since 1980 that the state of Michigan has conducted aerial spraying to combat the disease, though individual communities have sprayed since that time, according to state officials.
More than 700,000 acres are expected to be sprayed, according to current data provided by MDHHS, and the total cost is estimated to be between $1.5 and $1.8 million. According to Sutfin, the funds are coming out of the MDHHS budget.
State officials urge residents to check back later and visit www.Michigan.gov/EEE for the most up-to-date information on what zones are being sprayed and when.
“We are providing treatment zones daily as weather and other factors can create changes in the schedule,” Sutfin said.