Michigan HS move up football kickoffs, rather than cancel, due to deadly mosquito-borne virus

Cassandra Negley
Aspen High School football players watch the varsity game against Bayfield High School from the sidelines on Saturday, September 7, 2019. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times via AP)
Football players in Michigan will kick off in the daytime to avoid prime mosquito time. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times via AP)

High schools in Southwest Michigan are convening for Friday football earlier this week in response to an outbreak of a mosquito-borne virus.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned the public earlier this week to avoid outdoor activities at dusk and encouraged leaders to postpone or cancel outdoor events, per MLive. The region is experiencing the worst Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade, according to officials who are categorizing it a “public health threat.”

Three have died and four additional people affected in the area by the rare and occasionally deadly virus. Approximately 30 percent of the people infected die, per the Centers for Disease Control, and many survivors suffer from neurological problems.

In response, at least a dozen schools announced earlier kickoffs ranging from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., according to MLive. Most games are typically underway at 7 p.m. in Michigan. Moving them up is an effort to avoid peak mosquito hours.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also advised fans to wear long sleeves and pants despite temperatures in the 80s to protect themselves from potentially contracting the disease.

Michigan had seven total cases between 2009 and 2018, according to the CDC. There are already at least 10 cases this year country-wide; the high is 15 set in 2012.

Other cases of “Triple E,” as it’s called, have been reported in New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, per the Washington Post.

The virus is spread to humans and horses through mosquitos that feast on infected birds. Symptoms, including chills, fever, malaise, joint pain and muscle pain, occur between 4 to 10 days after infection in adults.

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