West Nile virus found in Oakland County; no human cases

Evan Carter
The Detroit News

Oakland County health officials found this summer’s first evidence of West Nile virus in a mosquito test pool, nearly a month earlier than last year.

The positive test result was detected Friday, compared with July 31 in 2015.

According to Mark Hansell, the county’s chief of Environmental Health and Special Programs, Oakland County hasn’t had any reported cases of humans contracting the virus this year. In 2015, the first human cases in the county weren’t confirmed until September.

According to Macomb County Health Director Bill Ridella, Macomb hasn’t had any mosquito test pools show West Nile and there have been no reported human cases. The same is true in Wayne County, according to data from the state’s emerging diseases website.

A Canada goose in Macomb County tested positive for West Nile, said Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Hansell said the only other place in the state where the virus has been detected was the Saginaw area, where two test pools came back positive.

“West Nile virus is a big deal because it’s so preventable. ... The deal with the West Nile virus is that it can lead to death,” Hansell said. “So when we know that it’s present, we want to get the message out.”

The mosquito-borne virus can be transferred from infected birds to mosquitoes; the infected mosquitoes then can pass the virus to humans. In humans, West Nile virus can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain.

In 2015, Michigan had 18 human cases of the virus and two deaths, according to the federal Centers for Diseases Control. In 2014, there were 2,205 cases nationally and 97 deaths, according to a CDC report.

Many of those affected by the virus do not experience symptoms, but West Nile has been known to cause mild illnesses such as fever, headache and body aches.

In the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, a more serious disease affecting the brain can develop and become fatal.

According to Hansell, the best way for residents to prevent West Nile virus is to apply a repellent that includes DEET and Picaridin that repels mosquitoes and to remove any standing water.

“It’s important to know that prevention is the most important form of protection,” he said.

Hansell said dry, hot weather in the state can spread the virus because wet, cooler summers will wash out mosquito eggs and prevent the populations from growing too large.

“Historically, what we have seen with West Nile virus is that the hotter, drier summers show more cases of West Nile virus than wetter, cooler summers,” he said. “Without rain, they have free rein to reproduce and it actually leads to higher numbers of mosquitoes.”

West Nile is believed to have come to the United States in 1999. Since then, the virus has been detected in humans, animals and mosquitoes in 47 states.

Any people who believes they have West Nile should contact a physician immediately.

To report a dead bird, visit www.michigandnr.com/diseasedwildlifereporting/disease_obsreport.asp. To report three or more dead birds, call (517) 336-5030.

excarter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2613

Twitter: @evancarter_94

Tips to prevent bites

■Spray clothing and exposed skin with insect repellent. Make sure the repellent includes DEET and Picaridin.

■Minimize activities where mosquitoes are present, such as shaded areas.

■Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors.

■Maintain window and door screening to keep mosquitoes out of buildings.

■Eliminate standing water in your yard.