Protect yourselves: Virus detected in Michigan mosquitoes

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

Mosquitoes in Bay County are the first of the season to test positive for the Jamestown Canyon virus, the Michigan Health Department announced Thursday.

While this is the first mosquito-borne virus detected in Michigan this year, previous summers have brought Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus as well

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“It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness,” said Natasha Bagdasarian, a physician and Michigan health department's chief medical executive. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors, avoiding areas where mosquitoes are present if possible, and wearing clothing to cover arms and legs to prevent bites.”

Symptoms of JCV in someone who has contracted the virus after a mosquito bite may present within two days to two weeks, and commonly include fever, headache and fatigue. In rare cases, more severe symptoms include encephalitis, an infection of the brain, and meningitis.

The health department said the best protection against all mosquito-borne illnesses is to prevent bites. It recommends using insect repellant that contains DEET, wearing long sleeves and pants, putting up screens around the house and emptying idle water in or around homes where mosquitoes may breed. 

Last summer six Michigan residents came down with JCV. The health department says cases have been rising across the Midwest, which, in part, could be the result of increased testing. The Michigan health department's bureau of laboratory began testing mosquitos collected by local health departments last year. 

Mosquitos that spread JCV become infected after feeding on other animals, like deer, that may carry the virus in their bloodstream. Other mosquito-borne viruses like EEE and West Nile originate in birds. Last year Michigan saw one human case of EEE and 46 of West Nile, seven of which resulted in death.