First West Nile virus case confirmed in Michigan

Breana Noble The Detroit News

Michigan’s health department confirmed Friday the first human case of West Nile virus in the state this year.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced in a news release an older adult in Livingston County has contracted the illness and is recovering. Livingston County Health Promotion Specialist Emily Hamilton said he showed mild symptoms and has returned home.

“Livingston County has a history of West Nile,” Hamilton said. “We expect to see it pretty much every summer. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile are more common in hot and dry conditions, making this summer the perfect storm.”

The National Drought Mitigation Center announced parts of Michigan had descended into moderate drought conditions earlier this month.

“This case is an important reminder to stay vigilant against mosquito bites throughout the summer,” Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the state health department, said in the news release.

There are three mosquito pools in Oakland and Saginaw counties that have tested positive for West Nile virus, and 13 birds were found carrying the virus as well, according to the news release.

The illness is normally spread from mosquito to human. It is not contagious from other people or animals, though it may be passed on through the blood during organ transplants, pregnancy or blood transfusions, Michigan health department spokeswoman Jennifer Eisner said.

To stay protected from West Nile, the health department recommends keeping windows and doors screened, using insect repellent with DEET, wearing light-colored clothing that covers arms and legs when outside, not letting water to accumulate and sit, and using nets or fans over outdoor eating areas.

“All residents older than six months of age should use repellent and take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours between dusk and dawn,” Wells said.

Many infected by West Nile virus do not show any symptoms, though they may appear up to 15 days after exposure. One in five people with West Nile will have a mild illness with fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting diarrhea or rash.

One in 150 cases will become severely ill, showing symptoms similar to those of encephalitis or meningitis, including stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.

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