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Categorized | Health, Outdoors

New warning about West Nile Virus

Confirmed case in Oakland County

The West Michigan area received some significant rainfall in certain areas last week (including Grand Rapids and Sparta). The rain provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and that, coupled with the fact that there was a confirmed case of the virus in Michigan two weeks ago, prompted the Kent County Health Department to issue a reminder warning to protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are known to spread the West Nile Virus. Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

Mosquitoes are known to spread the West Nile Virus. Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

State officials say the hot, dry spring and summer allowed mosquitoes carrying the West Nile to hatch early. West Nile can cause a variety of symptoms, from mild aches and a fever to potentially fatal conditions, such as meningitis and encephalitis.
Michigan health officials announced that a man from Oakland County was diagnosed as the state’s first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) for the year. The Michigan Department of Community Health says the 44-year-old man required hospitalization, but is now at home recovering.

Two counties on the east side of Michigan reported WNV activity in earlier this month. The Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission tested a mosquito pool, and found the population was positive for WNV. In Washtenaw County, a wild turkey displaying signs of WNV tested positive for the virus at Michigan State University.
The months of August and September are when most human cases of West Nile Virus occur in Michigan. The end of summer is when mosquitoes are older and more likely to carry the virus. The types of mosquitoes that transmit the virus bite during evening and nighttime hours.

Most people bitten by a WNV infected mosquito show no symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure.

About one-in-five infected persons will have mild illness with fever. About one in 150 infected people will become severely ill. Symptoms of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and brain linings) include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis. Physicians are urged to test patients for WNV if they present with fever and signs of meningitis or encephalitis, or sudden painless paralysis in the absence of stroke in the summer months.

“Take a few minutes before you and your family go outdoors to make sure you are protected,” said Cathy Raevsky, the Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “While most people bit by mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus never show any symptoms, the disease can have severe complications in people over the age of 50 or who are already suffering from other medical conditions.”

The Kent County Health Department recommends using insect repellent when outdoors. Apply repellent to clothing and exposed skin, and follow directions on the product label. Don’t apply repellent under clothing, or on cuts, wounds or irritated skin. You should not apply repellent around the eyes or mouth, and if using spray, apply spray to your hands first, and then apply to face.

Repellent should not be used on infants under 2 months old at all. KCHD recommends putting netting over the infant’s stroller. DEET-containing products should be avoided for children 24 months of age or younger, and those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not to be used on children under three years of age. When using repellent on children, put it on your hands first, then on the child. Children tend to put their hands in or near their mouths, so don’t apply repellent to a child’s hands. After you get back indoors, wash off the repellent with soap and water, and wash treated clothing before wearing it again.

WNV caused 34 serious illnesses and two fatalities in Michigan last year, and was to blame for 34 deaths nationwide. For more information, the Michigan West Nile Virus website (www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus) includes more about transmission, symptoms and prevention.

Take the following steps to avoid WNV: 

• Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
• Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
• Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing, always following the

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