Michigan health officials have identified an Oakland County man as the state’s first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) for 2012. The 44-year-old man was hospitalized earlier this month after showing symptoms and is now at home recovering.
A mosquito pool sample collected in mid-June by the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission tested positive for WNV at Michigan State University (MSU). In addition, a wild turkey in Washtenaw County was submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in June and also tested positive for WNV at MSU.
Due to an unusually warm and dry spring and summer, mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile hatched early and are on the rise in Michigan, according to the state’s mosquito control districts. West Nile can cause serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis.
“Every summer and fall, we find that the presence of West Nile Virus in Michigan poses a serious health threat to our residents,” said Dr. Dean Sienko, Interim Chief Medical Executive at MDCH. “With the virus appearing earlier this year than it has in recent years, because of the hot and dry conditions, we want to advise residents to take appropriate precautions now to avoid getting bitten.”
Kathy Forzley, Health Officer of Oakland County Health Division, further emphasizes, “This is an important reminder that West Nile Virus is present in the community. Residents are reminded to follow key steps to protect themselves from illness.”
Michigan residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid WNV:
- Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
- Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
- Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
- Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing, always following the manufacturer’s directions for use.
The months of August and September are when most human cases of West Nile Virus occur in Michigan. The end of summer is when mosquitoes are older and more likely to carry the virus. The types of mosquitoes that transmit the virus bite during evening and nighttime hours.
Most people bitten by a WNV infected mosquito show no symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure.
About one-in-five infected persons will have mild illness with fever. About one in 150 infected people will become severely ill. Symptoms of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and brain linings) include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.
People 50 and older are more susceptible to severe WNV disease symptoms. Physicians are urged to test patients for WNV if they present with fever and signs of meningitis or encephalitis, or sudden painless paralysis in the absence of stroke in the summer months.
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. Southeast Michigan is a recurrent focus of WNV activity annually.
For more information and surveillance activity updates about West Nile virus, visit the state’s Emerging Diseases website at www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.
Source: News release from Michigan Department of Community Health