LANSING, Mich. -

With the warm weather fast approaching, the Michigan Department of Community Health is urging Michigan residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites this summer.

The MDCH says that Mosquitos in Michigan can potentially carry West Nile Virus, which can cause mild symptoms, severe ones which require hospitalization, and in some cases even death.

In 2012, West Nile Virus caused 202 illnesses and 17 deaths in the state of Michigan. In total, 5,674 West Nile Virus cases and 286 deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationally.

“One bite from an infected mosquito can lead to a severe and possibly life-altering illness," says Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive at the MDCH. "We know that prevention is key to protection. Taking a few minutes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites can make a big difference.”

The MDCH suggests some precautionary steps you can take to help protect yourself and prevent West Nile Virus, including:

Avoid mosquito bites: Always use insect repellent, and try to stick to EPA-labeled products, as they contain active ingredients. When needed, apply more repellent in accordance with the instructions on the bottle.

Mosquito-proof homes: Install door screens and remove anything that mosquitos could potentially lay eggs in, such as buckets of water sitting around.

Help your community: Report dead birds to www.michigan.gov/westnile and support mosquito control programs in your community.

Vaccinate horses: If you are a horse owner, talk to your veterinarian, as horses can be infected too.

For more information about West Nile Virus and other diseases carried by animals, visit www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases or www.cdc.gov.