West Nile virus is back

Bill ParkerThose damn mosquitoes!

The Michigan Department of Community Health has confirmed this year’s first human case of West Nile Virus in a man from St. Joseph County.

West Nile virus is most commonly spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease germinates in birds and it picked up there by mosquitoes and subsequently passed to humans.

So far this year in Michigan six crows from Saginaw (4), Bay (1) and Midland (1) counties; one wild turkey from Gratiot County and one Coopers hawk from Wayne County have all tested positive for West Nile Virus.

WNV is a serious illness that can, but rarely does, lead to death. Most often WNV causes fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and  rash, but only in about 1 in 5 people who become infected. Most people recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for months.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia says that less than 1 percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

Folks like us who recreate in the outdoors are more prone to come in contact with an infected mosquito simply because of the amount of time we spend  outside. So take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Until the first heavy frost arrives and kills this year’s mosquito crop, take steps to reduce contact with mosquitos.

Empty any standing water that could be a potential mosquito breeding site like buckets and old tires.

Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. I know that’s usually the best time to hunt and fish, so when you have to be outdoors be sure to wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. and apply insect repellents that contain DEET, or other EPA approved products. When applying repellent to children, apply it to your own hands and rub them on the child. Avoid the eyes and mouth and do not apply to children’s hands because they sometimes put their hands in their mouths. Do not apply repellents to infants under 6 months of age.

“We have clear evidence that West Nile Virus is present in the state again this summer,” Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive at the MDCH said in a release. “Taking a few minutes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites can make a big difference.”

For more information on West Nile Virus visit www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.

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