The West Nile virus reached epidemic levels throughout the country last summer. Nationally, 5,387 cases and 243 deaths were related to the virus last year.
Nearly 230 of those cases and 17 deaths were reported in Michigan.
In 2011, there were 34 cases and two deaths in the state.
Ottawa and Muskegon counties each had just one case reported last year. The eastern side of the state faced higher cases: The Detroit area saw 38 cases and six deaths related to the virus.
Howard Russell, an entomologist for Michigan State University, said he expects to see an increase in the general mosquito population in the new few weeks. He said April’s record rainfall will contribute to an early rise in the mosquito population.
“I would expect us to see pretty good levels in a couple of weeks as they complete their development,” Russell said.
Although officials can’t predict how the West Nile virus will impact us this year, Michigan Department of Community Health Department spokeswoman Angela Minicuci said it isn’t too early for precautions.
As Michigan residents de-winterize their homes, Minicuci recommends checking screens, windows and doors to prevent the pesky and possibly dangerous insects from coming in.
Homeowners should also periodically flush standing water to prevent mosquito larvae from collecting. Minicuci also recommends wearing insect repellent containing DEET.
Symptoms of the West Nile virus include headaches, body aches and fever. More severe cases display signs of a stiff neck, confusion, loss of consciousness, muscle weakness and even death — but Kristina Wieghmink, spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Health Department, said that isn’t common.
For more details on reducing your risk in getting the West Nile virus, CLICK HERE.