Michigan health officials have identified the state's first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus for 2013 in a man from downstate 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, reports the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Last year, 202 West Nile Virus 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 Michigan Department of Community Health.
"Taking a few minutes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites can make a big difference," Dr. Davis said in a statement.
Statewide, eight birds have tested positive for West Nile Virus 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 West Nile Virus positive mosquito pools have been detected. Infected birds and mosquitoes can provide an early warning of West Nile Virus activity in a community, re-enforcing the need for residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Area residents can report sightings of sick or dead birds on the West Nile virus website at www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.
Residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid West Nile Virus:
- 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.
Mosquito management is vital in the prevention of West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and heartworms in dogs and cats.
Eliminate standing water by properly discarding old tires, filling ruts and pot holes, and removing water from tarps, pool covers, and other items where it may collect.
Changing water in bowls, buckets, troughs, bird baths, and wading pools at least once each week, especially during the warmer weeks of late summer, are just a few simple steps to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.
Officials remind area residents to exercise care when applying insect repellents such as DEET, lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin.
Excessive use of insect repellents containing DEET can result in adverse health effects, particularly in children if not properly applied.
When applying insect repellents on children, follow the guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health:
- Do not use repellents with DEET on infants less than two months old.
- Apply repellent on your hands and then rub it on the child.
- Avoid spraying children's eyes and mouths, and use the repellent sparingly around their ears.
- Never apply repellent to children's hands or their skin under clothing.
- Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves.
- Once a child is indoors or the repellent is no longer needed, wash the treated skin with soap and water.
- Keep repellents out of reach of children.
Precautions to keep in mind regarding applying repellents and eliminating possible breeding grounds for summer insects:
- Avoid mosquitoes during their prime feeding hours of dusk and dawn.
- Before applying repellent, read all label directions; not all repellents are intended to be applied to the skin. Repellents with low concentrations (10 percent or below) are effective and may be preferred in most situations.
- Start with a low-concentration product and re-apply if necessary.
- If applying repellents over a long period of time, alternate the repellent with one having another active ingredient.
- Do not use repellents on broken or irritated skin or apply to eyes and mouth.
- Avoid breathing sprays and do not use near food.
Most people bitten by a West Nile Virus 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 include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.
People 50 and older are more susceptible to severe West Nile Virus disease symptoms. Physicians are urged to test patients for West Nile Virus if they present with fever and signs of meningitis or encephalitis, or sudden painless paralysis in the absence of stroke in the summer months.