West Nile virus found in Michigan counties

Health officials: The virus is circulating in mosquitoes, birds in the state

LANSING, Mich. - Health officials said they've identified West Nile virus in two Michigan counties, the earliest such detection in several years as weather conditions encourage the presence of mosquitoes.

The Michigan Department of Community Health announced Tuesday a mosquito pool sample collected in mid-June by the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission tested positive for WNV at Michigan State University (MSU).

These findings show the virus is circulating in mosquitoes and birds in the state which could present a risk to human health. 

Due to an unusually warm spring, mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile hatched early and are on the rise in Michigan, according to the state's mosquito control districts.

Serious Illness can occur:

West Nile can cause serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis,

Last year, WNV was responsible for 34 serious illnesses and two fatalities in Michigan.

Nationally, 712 WNV cases and 34 deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A wild turkey from Washtenaw County that was submitted to the Department of Natural Resources also tested positive.

No human cases have been confirmed this year.

"Hot and dry conditions favor development of the virus and the mosquitoes that transmit it," said Erik Foster, medical entomologist at MDCH. "These mosquitoes may breed near people's homes in storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds, and unused pools. When these areas are not flushed out by rains, it becomes stagnant and highly organic, which is appealing to mosquitoes that can transmit the disease."

Officials are urging people to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

The department says an unusually warm spring encouraged the early hatching of mosquitoes, which transmit the virus.

Prevention is key:

During the upcoming holiday when people spend more time outdoors, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is urging citizens to remember to apply repellents during peak mosquito biting periods (dusk and dawn.) In particular, citizens are advised to use mosquito repellent products containing EPA-approved active ingredients, such as DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Draining standing water, and making sure door and window screens are in good repair will also help keep mosquitoes out of the home.

"Adults who are 50 and older have the highest risk of illness caused by West Nile Virus.

People who work in outdoor occupations like construction and landscaping are also at increased risk of getting bitten by an infected mosquito," said Dr. Corinne Miller, state epidemiologist at MDCH.  "One bite from an infected mosquito can lead to a severe and possibly life-altering illness.  Prevention is the key to protection."

For up to date information about West Nile activity in Michigan, precaution and treatment information, or to report sick or dead birds, visit www.michigan.gov/westnile. Additional information can be found at the CDC's website www.cdc.gov/westnile.

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