First human case of West Nile virus reported in Mich.

LANSING – Michigan health officials have identified the state’s first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) for 2013 in a man from St. Joseph County, and are reminding people to protect themselves against mosquito bites. West Nile can cause serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, 202 WNV illnesses and 17 fatalities were reported in Michigan.

“We have clear evidence that West Nile Virus is present in the state again this summer,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive at the MDCH. “Taking a few minutes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites can make a big difference.”

Statewide, eight birds have tested positive for WNV so far this season, including six crows from Saginaw (4), Bay (1) and Midland (1) counties, one wild turkey from Gratiot County and one Coopers hawk from Wayne County. No WNV positive mosquito pools have been detected. Infected birds and mosquitoes can provide an early warning of WNV activity in a community, re-enforcing the need for residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Citizens can report sightings of sick or dead birds on the West Nile virus website at

Michigan residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid WNV:

  • Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
  • Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
  • Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved product to exposed skin or clothing, always following the manufacturer’s directions for use.

Choose a repellent concentration rated for the time you will spend outdoors. When applying repellent to children, apply it to your own hands and rub them on the child. Avoid the eyes and mouth and do not apply to children’s hands because they sometimes put their hands in their mouths. Do not apply repellents to infants under 6 months of age and instead place nets over strollers and baby carriers.

Most people bitten by a WNV infected mosquito show no symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure. About one-in-five infected persons will have mild illness with fever. About one in 150 infected people will become severely ill. Symptoms of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and brain linings) include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.

People 50 and older are more susceptible to severe WNV disease symptoms. Physicians are urged to test patients for WNV if they present with fever and signs of meningitis or encephalitis, or sudden painless paralysis in the absence of stroke in the summer months. For more information and surveillance activity about WNV, visit

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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