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Michigan confirms first 2020 human case of West Nile virus in Wayne County resident

13 confirmed cases of EEE in Michigan horses

Mosquito.
Mosquito.

Michigan health officials have confirmed the state’s first human case of West Nile virus for 2020 in a Wayne County resident.

“As we approach a long holiday weekend, it’s vital to continue protecting your family from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus and Eastern Equine encephalitis virus.”

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Officials also said they have identified 13 cases of Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE) in horses from Barry, Clare, Kent, Montcalm, Newaygo and Oakland counties.

“Whether you’re talking about West Nile, EEE or any other mosquito-borne disease, people and animal owners should take every precaution necessary to prevent infection,” state veterinarian Nora Wineland said. “There is a lot happening in people’s lives right now, but we can’t let our guard down. I strongly urge animal owners to work with their veterinarian to make sure all their animals are vaccinated appropriately.”

Two birds from Lapeer and Oakland counties have tested positive for West Nile virus, and 14 mosquito pools infected with West Nile virus have been detected in five Michigan counties -- Arenac, Kent, Lapeer, Oakland and Saginaw counties, according to authorities.

Finding infected birds, animals and mosquitoes in a community is an indication of risk for human infection, officials said.

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In 2019, 12 human cases of West Nile virus were reported, including two deaths. The state also experienced its worst outbreak of EEE, with 10 human cases, six deaths and 50 cases in animals.

Between Sept. 28 and Oct. 10 last year, more than 557,000 acres in Michigan were treated with aerial applications of insecticide to kill infected mosquitoes and prevent additional cases.

Most people who become infected with West Nile virus won’t develop symptoms, but some could become sick three to 15 days after exposure. About one in five infected people will have mild illness with fever, and about one in 150 will become severely ill, experts said.

Mild illness can include headaches, body aches, joint pain, vomiting diarrhea or rash. Severe symptoms are associated with encephalitis or meningitis and can include a stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.

People age 60 and older are more susceptible to the severe symptoms.

Here are some recommended steps to avoid West Nile virus, EEE and other mosquito-borne diseases:

  • Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA-approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
  • Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

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