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Lansing — At least one person from Wayne County has died from West Nile virus in Michigan, while seven other state residents have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus, health officials said Thursday.

Five of the confirmed cases were in Wayne County residents, with one from Oakland County, one in Kent County and another in Berrien County. All but one have been hospitalized with neurological symptoms, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The deadly West Nile Virus has also been detected in three Michigan blood donors.

“As the fall approaches, it’s vital to remember that mosquito bite protection should continue until the weather significantly cools,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive.  “It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus.”

Surveillance for mosquito-borne diseases is being conducted by local health departments as well as the state health department, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

According to state health officials, West Nile Virus appears to be statewide this year. It’s been detected in 66 birds from 21 of Michigan’s 83 counties. It’s also been found 74 mosquito pools — stagnant water that mosquitoes breed in — in eight Michigan counties.

Finding the virus in birds and mosquito pools is a red flag for human infections, health officials said.  Most people who are infected never develop symptoms. Among those who become sick, symptoms can occur three to 15 days after exposure, with about one in five coming down with a mild symptoms such as a slight fever, headache body aches, joint pain, vomiting diarrhea or rash.

Only about one in 150 who are infected will come down with severe symptoms, which can include encephalitis or meningitis, a stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis. People 60 and older are more susceptible to these severe symptoms.

To avoid contracting West Nile Virus, health officials recommend the following safety measures:

  • 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.

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

@kbouffardDN

 

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