(Grand Rapids, MI)—The recent changes in the weather have created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes, increasing their population. The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) reminds residents to reduce their risk of West Nile Virus (WNV) by reducing their exposure to mosquitoes.
Although no human cases of the disease have yet been reported in Kent County, the Michigan Department of Community Health has identified a 48-year-old man from Macomb County as the state’s first probable case of West Nile Virus for 2011. The 48-year-old man was hospitalized earlier this month after showing symptoms and has since died. Because West Nile Virus is considered endemic in West Michigan, some level of infection in humans, birds, and mosquitoes are expected every year. County health officials say it is impossible to predict the number of WNV cases each year and that the months of August and September are when most human cases of WNV occur.
Since it is impossible to know how a person might react to the West Nile Virus, and whether or not any individual may become severely ill, KCHD recommends reducing exposure to mosquitoes to reduce the potential risk of WNV infection and illness. Specifically:
• Use insect repellent containing DEET. Apply insect repellent to exposed skin and spray clothing with repellents since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Insect repellents containing 10-35 percent DEET are generally effective (higher concentrations work longer but are not more effective); use a DEET concentration of 10 percent or less for children. Always read and follow manufacturers’ label directions when applying insect repellent as most are not recommended for use on children under two years of age.
• Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening, when mosquitoes are active.
• Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors, but especially in wooded or wetland areas.
• Make sure window and door screens are maintained in good condition to keep mosquitoes out of buildings and homes.
• Drain standing water around yards, decks, and other outdoor areas around the home. Flower pots, pet bowls, clogged rain gutters, swimming pool covers, discarded tires, buckets—anything that can hold standing water—is a site in which mosquitoes can lay eggs. Change water in bird baths every three to four days (twice a week).
• Avoid activities in areas where large numbers of mosquitoes are present.
West Nile Virus can produce a range of symptoms in humans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms, though up to 20 percent may develop mild illness with symptoms including: fever, headache, body aches, rash and swollen lymph glands.
Approximately one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness that may be characterized by severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and rarely, death. Persons 55 and over have the highest risk of severe disease.
The Health Department also offers educational presentations on West Nile Virus. The presentations are free of charge and available to groups of 10 or more throughout the year by calling the Health Department at (616) 632-7297.