Michigan has confirmed human cases of West Nile virus

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Michigan’s first human cases of West Nile virus this year, in Macomb, Monroe and Ottawa counties, were confirmed by state health officials.

The Oakland County Health Division, meanwhile, reported Friday that a blood donor has tested positive.

“We have clear evidence that West Nile virus is present in the state again this summer,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Even late in the season, remembering to take a few minutes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites when outside can make a big difference.”

The virus also was found in two other people who donated blood but have shown no symptoms, including one in Oakland County.

“The American Red Cross consistently tests blood donations for a wide variety of infectious diseases,” Oakland County said in a statement.

Statewide, 57 birds have tested positive for the virus this season, and 11 pools of mosquitoes tested positive in Bay, Kent, Oakland, Saginaw and Wayne counties. Last year turned out to be almost virus-free among humans with only one reported case, a dramatic drop from when the state recorded 202 cases, including 17 deaths three years ago. There were 36 cases in 2013, including two deaths.

Friday’s announcement came days after Oakland County officials said a crow tested positive for the virus. The results were confirmed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services laboratory, officials said Wednesday.

The crow marked the second appearance of the virus this summer in Oakland County after an Aug. 4 announcement that mosquitoes had tested positive.

The virus also was found after testing of a pool of mosquitoes in Redford Township in Wayne County, according to an announcement last week.

Officials are urging residents to use repellent and protective clothing to avoid exposure to mosquitoes that may be infected.

Most people infected with West Nile will not show symptoms, officials said. About one in five people will become sick three to 15 days after exposure, developing flu-like symptoms that could last for weeks, while severe cases could lead to potentially fatal neurological illnesses such as encephalitis and meningitis.

People 50 years and older are most susceptible to severe symptoms, officials said.

The virus is spread from infected birds to the mosquitoes that bite them, officials said. Infected birds and mosquitoes serve as early warning signs of virus activity in a community.


Suggested steps to avoid West Nile exposure

■ 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.

■ Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always following 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.

■ For children, apply insect repellant to your own hands and rub them onto the child, avoid the eyes and mouth. Do not apply repellant to babies under 6 months old; instead, place nets over strollers and baby carriers.