Fewer West Nile virus cases reported

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 3:01 PM

So far this year, Michigan hasn’t had any reported human West Nile virus cases. During the same period last year, four cases had been reported in the state, said Dr. Kim Signs, an epidemiologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Signs said she attributes the drop in cases to the summer’s cooler temperatures and rainy weather.

“The weather we’re having is opposite (of the weather) that favors West Nile virus,” she said.

Despite the weather conditions, Signs said she expects some cases will be reported before the season ends.

A total of 36 cases were reported in Michigan in 2013, which was down about 82 percent from the 202 cases reported in 2012. During the summer of 2012, conditions were hot and dry, which tends to increase the spread of the West Nile virus, Signs said.

While no human cases have been confirmed in the state so far this year, the virus has been found in mosquitoes and birds. In July, the first West Nile activity was found in a mosquito pool in Saginaw County.

Cases around the country are also lower than last year. As of last week, 43 states reported West Nile virus activity in birds, people and mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, 210 human cases have been reported in the U.S., which is down 41 percent from the 296 cases reported last year.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include high fever, confusion, severe headache and muscle weakness. The CDC reports that between 70 and 80 percent of people afflicted with the virus don’t develop any symptoms.

Kristina Wieghmink, spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, said residents should always take precautions against mosquito bites. She encourages us to wear insect repellent containing DEET, mosquito-proofing our homes by repairing screens, wearing long sleeves and pants when going outdoors, and emptying standing water.

Signs also encourages residents to continue taking precautions because mosquitoes also carry other harmful viruses. She said mosquitoes are often around until the first frost, which is usually in October.


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