Heading outdoors this Labor Day weekend? State health officials urge all Michiganders to use insect repellent and take other precautions to prevent mosquito bites as the first West Nile virus cases of the year have been identified in people from Oakland and Macomb counties.
In the past week, mosquitoes collected in Detroit and Bay City and Kent, Macomb, Midland, Oakland and Wayne counties have tested positive for West Nile virus as well as another mosquito-borne disease, Jamestown Canyon virus.
In addition, Eastern Equine Encephalitis — a virus that kills 1 in 3 people who are sickened by it — was detected in a pool of mosquitoes in Barry County and a deer and a horse in Livingston County.
The viruses are all transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird.
“It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, in a statement.
“As we head into the holiday weekend and beyond, we urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants when outdoors during those time periods.”
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West Nile virus symptoms
West Nile virus is the most common mosquito-borne illness in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people who are infected will have no symptoms at all. But 1 in 5 will develop symptoms that include:
- Body aches
- Joint pains
- Vomiting or diarrhea
About 1 in 150 people will develop more severe symptoms that affect the central nervous system and include:
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Neck stiffness
- Stupor or disorientation
- Muscle weakness
- Vision loss
How to prevent West Nile virus
There are no vaccines to prevent the virus and there’s no medicine to treat it.
The risk for contracting West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses climbs over the warm-weather months and peaks in late summer and early fall.
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People can reduce their risk by:
- Using insect repellent containing one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
- Wearing shoes, socks and light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors.
- Avoiding being outdoors during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings.
- Using bed nets when sleeping outdoors or in conditions with no window screens.
- Eliminating all sources of standing water around your home, including in bird baths.
Contact Kristen Shamus: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
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