(FOX 17) — Schools in southwest Michigan are starting to reschedule athletic events due to protect students from a mosquito-borne illness that has killed three people.
State and county health departments have confirmed seven cases of Eastern equine encephalitis in southwest Michigan — three of them have been fatal. EEE is the most dangerous mosquito-borne illness in the country with a 33% fatality rate for people who become ill.
Since mosquitoes are most active at dusk — the same time many school sports are happening — some districts are moving games up in the day.
Hartford is moving all JV and varsity games’ kickoff to 5:30 p.m. and is providing bug spray to students and coaches who will be involved in outdoor practices due to the EEE outbreak. A youth soccer league in Mattawan is also cancelling all practices Wednesday evening.
Lakewood has moved it's homecoming game Friday up to 5 p.m. The Lakewood Public Schools District is also ending all outdoor events and practices prior to dusk until further notice. All youth programs must be off property by 7 p.m.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association leaves the decision on whether to change schedules up to individual districts who are working with local health departments.
"Any decisions to move or postpone or cancel will be made at the local level by local schools in consolation with their local health departments," said John R. Johnson, an MHSAA spokesperson. "… We'll follow the leads on the information that we're given, try to serve as a good go between and make sure that we all work to keep our kids and our teens and our community safe.”
Kalamazoo schools are keeping the current activities scheduled around dusk as is, but are sending home a letter with elementary students.
People are advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellent with DEET.
Symptoms of EEE include fever chills and body aches, and severe cases can cause headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures, brain damage, coma and death.
Other schools changing start times include:
- Cassopolis vs. Bangor will start at 4 p.m. Friday
- White Pigeon's JV and varsity games at Centreville will start at 5 p.m.
- Three Rivers' JV game against Sturgis will be played at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, and the varsity game will start at 5 p.m.
- Medon's JV and varsity football games will start at 5 p.m.
- Dowagiac vs. Paw Paw will start at 5:15 p.m.