Why am I not able to opt-out of EEE aerial treatment this year?
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases. While typically there are only a few cases of EEE reported annually, in 2019 there was a significant increase in the number of cases across the U.S., and especially in Michigan. Michigan accounted for 25 percent of the cases nationally in 2019 – the same number of cases our state had experienced in the previous 10 years combined.
By mid-September in 2020, we have had twice as many animal cases of EEE as we did in 2019. When there are high rates of animal infections, humans are just as at risk. EEE is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The risk is highest for people who live in or visit woodland habitats, and people who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities. This risk is even higher this year as more people are participating in outdoor activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To prevent additional human and animal illnesses and death, and protect public health, MDHHS has determined a targeted aerial treatment plan is necessary. EEE can strike fast and the virus is deadly – it has a 33 percent fatality rate, and otherwise can have long-lasting serious health impacts, including neurological deficits. It is imperative to begin mosquito abatement as quickly as possible.
Mosquitos are present and will remain active until there is a hard freeze, equivalent to the temperature dropping below 28 degrees F for an extended period of time. During the time that would be needed to accommodate opt-out requests, there remains the potential for several more animals and humans to be infected, when immediate aerial treatment significantly reduces that risk.
Due to the need for expedition, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued an emergency rule temporarily amending the rule for notification and participation for community pesticide applications for aerial treatment across affected counties.
It is important to note that the amount of pesticide sprayed is equal to one to two tablespoons per acre. Health risks are not expected during or after spraying. Monitoring in 2019, when more than 557,000 acres in Michigan were treated, found no increased adverse effects in people, animals or insects.
You can also call the MDHHS hotline for general EEE questions at 1-888-535-6136. The hotline is available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.