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MDHHS reviews eastern equine encephalitis response, plans for years to come

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14 counties received aerial treatment spraying in an effort to combat the rare, deadly mosquito-borne virus. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said 557,000 acres were treated compared to the 720,000 originally planned due to opt outs. (WWMT/MGN Online)

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said they finished aerial spraying for mosquitoes even as new cases of eastern equine encephalitis, known as EEE, were confirmed in West Michigan.

MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said planned aerial treatment to help combat eastern equine encephalitis was completed Monday night. Six new cases of the virus were also confirmed, one human case and five in horses. Sutfin said all six cases had onset dates before aerial spraying began.

Sutfin said state officials are pleased with the response and are taking notes for years ahead.

Emily Fackler said she has been a Kalamazoo County resident her entire life and that 2019 was the first year she took precautionary measures when it came to EEE.

"This is the first time that something like this has ever really happened. I feel like I didn't really hear about it until it was a countywide issue," said Fackler.

Aerial treatment spraying in an effort to combat the rare, deadly mosquito-borne virus was done across 14 counties. Sutfin said 557,000 acres were treated compared to the 720,000 originally planned due to opt outs.

Sutfin said the decision to spray was one made in partnership between state and county health department officials.

"This is something the state hadn't done since 1980. Cases were continuing to increase and we started to see them geographically spread," said Sutfin.

Despite the highest number of human cases reported in Kalamazoo County, only a small portion was treated.

"The Fort Custer training center that opted in and agreed to the aerial treatment," said Sutfin.

More human cases were reported than the number of cases reported over the last decade in Michigan.

"We usually don't see eastern equine encephalitis every year. It's usually every decade we see several cases," said Sutfin.

Sutfin said regardless the virus will be on the radar for years to come and additional monitoring will be done.

"Trying to find out if the mosquitoes carrying eastern equine encephalitis are in the states sooner before we start seeing the cases in animals which is usually the first sign of it," said Sutfin.

Aerial spraying treatment has an efficacy rate of 85%. Sutfin said regardless of where people live they should still take preventative measures.

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