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West Nile virus found in five adults in Kent County

CDC reports largest outbreak ever across U.S.

The Kent County Health Department is urging people to protect themselves from mosquitoes in the wake of several cases of West Nile Virus in the county, and record numbers across the U.S.

The KCHD announced Wednesday that they have confirmed five cases of West Nile Virus (WNV), and that about a dozen other individuals showing WNV symptoms in Kent County are awaiting preliminary test results. Several were hospitalized.

“We are very concerned about West Nile Virus after a mild winter and hot summer,” said Cathy Raevsky, the Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “The disease can have severe complications in people over the age of fifty or in those who are already suffering from other medical conditions.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47 states have reported WNV infections in 2012 so far. A total of 1,118 cases of West Nile Virus disease have been confirmed in people, including 41 deaths, through the third week in August, 2012—the highest number of WNV disease cases reported to CDC (over the same period) since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Of these, 629 (56 percent) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 489 (44 percent) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease. Approximately 75 percent of the cases have been reported from 5 states (Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma) and almost half of all cases have been reported from Texas.

Michigan has reported 30 cases of the human virus over 9 counties: Allegan 1, Ingham 1, Kent 5, Lapeer 1, Macomb 7, Muskegon 1, Oakland 5, Washtenaw 1, and Wayne 8. There are also reports of animals in Michigan with West Nile, including a horse in Montcalm County (see story on Outdoor page ??).

The Kent County Health Department recommends the following:

Use 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 and your children get back indoors, wash off the repellent with soap and water, and wash treated clothing before wearing again.

At home, be sure you are not making it easy for mosquitoes to breed. Make sure to eliminate any standing water. Twice a week, empty water from birdbaths, flower pots, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans. Make sure rain gutters are clear of debris. Throw out old tires and other items that could collect water.

Avoid areas where mosquitoes are likely to be, such as wooded areas or swampy land.

West Nile Virus can produce a range of symptoms in humans. According to the CDC, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms, though up to 20% 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 Michigan West Nile Virus website (www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus) includes more about transmission, symptoms and prevention.

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