State to spray Monday for mosquito-borne virus

Evan James Carter
The Detroit News

Aerial spraying to fight the eastern equine encephalitis virus is scheduled to begin Monday at dusk, officials said.

The state plans to spray an insecticide to kill the mosquitoes that carry the virus, which has killed three people in Michigan.

Officials planned to perform the spraying Sunday, but postponed it due to the rain. They said updates on spraying could be found at

Eastern equine encephalitis is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. It can be fatal and often leaves survivors with brain damage.

On Friday, the state said Michigan and local health departments in 14 counties would conduct spraying for the first time since 1980 to combat the rare mosquito-borne virus that has been found in the southern half of the state. 

Spraying is expected to begin in Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Montcalm, Newaygo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties.

The spray treatment is expected to eliminate many of the mosquitoes in those counties and help stop the spread of the disease, the department said. 

Michigan is experiencing its largest-ever outbreak of the virus, the health department said. The disease has been confirmed in nine people, with three fatalities, in six counties in southwest Michigan. There have been 27 animal cases in 13 counties. The state said geographic distribution and the number of cases along with projections of warm weather prompted the move to spray. Mosquitoes generally don’t die until the first frost.

"In the past week cases of EEE have been confirmed in four additional counties —Newaygo, Kent, Allegan and Livingston counties," said Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33% fatality rate in people who become ill and a 90% fatality rate in horses, according to the health department. People can be infected with EEE from the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus. There is a vaccine for horses, but none for humans. 

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches that can progress to a severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.