Kent County woman 5th reported death in Michigan from West Nile virus

Michigan health officials say state is experiencing 'epidemic' of virus activity

Published On: Aug 30 2012 05:18:56 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 30 2012 10:00:32 AM EDT
Grand Rapids West Nile death
DETROIT -

A Grand Rapids commissioner's 87-year-old mother has become the state's fifth death from West Nile virus.

Walt Gutowski told WOOD-TV that his mother, Lorraine, passed away after being admitted to a hospital with flu-like symptoms. Gutowski said tests later revealed she had West Nile virus.

Michigan Department of Community Health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci confirmed the latest death to Local 4.

On a conference call Wednesday with reporters, MDCH Interim Chief Medical Executive Dean Sienko said there have been 80 human cases of West Nile this year in the state, and in 62 of those, the patient required hospitalization.

In all of 2011, Michigan recorded 34 human cases of West Nile virus and two deaths.

Sienko says Michigan is experiencing an "epidemic of West Nile virus activity."

Experts think a mild winter, early spring and hot summer have helped stimulate mosquito breeding and the spread of the virus.

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