Oakland Co. blood donor tests positive for West Nile virus

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan has identified the first blood donor in Oakland County to test positive for West Nile virus this year, the county's health division said Thursday.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services notified the division after the American Red Cross tested blood donations for infectious diseases, including the mosquito-borne virus.

The health and human services department's website does not note any other human cases so far this year.

An Oakland County blood donor has tested positive for West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease, the Oakland County Health Division said Thursday.

Infected mosquitoes can pass on the virus to humans when they bite them after having bitten an infected bird. Most people who are infected have either no symptoms or experience mild illness such as fever, headache and body aches.

In some cases, a more serious disease-causing inflammation and swelling of the brain can occur. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Health officials found the first evidence of West Nile virus in Oakland County this year in June in a mosquito pool collection in Pontiac.

Last year, the county confirmed its first human fatality from the virus since 2015. It was one of nine recorded in Michigan in 2018. The man was 80 years old.

“Mosquitos are present until temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees,” Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County, said in a statement. “Continue to use insect repellent and take preventive measures to prevent disease and avoid mosquito bites.”

Last month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources requested ruffed grouse as a part of a study with two other Great Lakes states after a rise in the number of birds testing positive for the disease. DNR biologists identifed West Nile in 12 ruffed grouse in the state in 2017.

To protect against infection, health officials urge residents to take precautions such as:

  • Using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol as the active ingredient.
  • Eradicating mosquito breeding sites by removing standing water around the home and emptying items that hold it such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpots and trash containers. 
  • Cleaning clogged roof gutters. 
  • Treating standing water that cannot be eliminated, such as retention ponds or drainage ditches, with a mosquito larvicide.
  • Wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Limiting outdoor activity from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Maintaining window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of buildings. 

For more information, go to oakgov.com/health. A nurse on call is available at 800-848-5533, 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.