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Michigan health officials confirmed the state’s first human cases of West Nile in 2017, noting that the virus “appears to be widespread statewide.”

Two Montcalm County residents and one each from Oakland and Macomb counties tested positive fo the virus after symptoms emerged Aug. 6-11, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

All four have been hospitalized with neurologic disease, according to the department.

In addition to the four human cases, five Michigan blood donors have had the virus detected in their blood. So far, 148 birds have tested positive for West Nile in 44 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

Meanwhile, 86 West Nile-positive mosquito pools have been detected in seven counties, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has reported that eight horses tested positive for the virus in Clinton, Jackson, Livingston, Missaukee, Mecosta, Midland, Ottawa and Wexford counties.

West Nile activity “appears to be widespread statewide” this year, officials said.

“This is an important reminder to stay vigilant and protect against mosquito bites throughout the summer and into the fall,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the Health and Human Services Department, in a statement. “All residents should take steps to prevent bites, such as use repellent and take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours between dusk and dawn.”

The state reported 43 serious cases in 2016, when West Nile activity was found in more than 13 counties in Lower Michigan. Three deaths were linked to the mosquito-borne disease.

Most people who become infected do not develop symptoms, but some are sick three to 15 days after exposure, health officials said Thursday. About 1 in 5 report mild illness with fever, and about 1 in 150 become severely ill.

Mild illness can include headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Severe symptoms, which people 50 and older are more susceptible to, can include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.

To avoid contracting the West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, residents are advised to:

Keep window and door screening maintained to keep mosquitoes outside.

Empty water from around the home, such as buckets, kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where the insects lay eggs.

Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

Apply insect repellents containing DEET or other EPA-approved products to exposed skin or clothing.

Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

For learn more, go to http://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

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