Updated: West Nile virus claims 10 in state so far, including Ogemaw County man
Updated Sept. 25, at 7:24 p.m.
OGEMAW COUNTY — West Nile virus has claimed the life of a 65-year-old Ogemaw County man.
New numbers issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health Tuesday included the Ogemaw County man, the first human killed by the disease in Northern Michigan and the first reported human case of West Nile virus in Ogemaw County.
The new numbers also include one human case reported in Gladwin County, but no deaths reported there.
In all, 10 have died in the state from West Nile virus so far this year, including four in Wayne County, two in Kent and Macomb counties and one in Washtenaw County.
Because of privacy laws, no further information on the Ogemaw County man has been released.
According to information provided by the MDCH, there have been 185 human cases reported in Michigan as of Sept. 19. The majority of those cases have been centered around the Detroit area, with 79 cases having been reported in Wayne County, and 46 cases in neighboring Oakland and Macomb counties.
Kent County has also seen a high number of cases, with 41 total.
Those numbers include probable and confirmed cases.
West Nile virus human cases have also been reported in Mason, Muskegon, Ottawa, Clinton, Lapeer, Allegan, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Washtenaw and Lenawee counties.
In 2011, only 34 West Nile virus human cases were reported in Michigan, according to the MDCH, with two fatalities.
According to MDCH Public Information Officer Angela Minicuci, the summer weather this year is the main reason there has been an increase in West Nile virus cases.
“We had a very unexpectedly dry and warm summer, and because of that this particular species of mosquito thrived,” Minicuci said. “This is the environment, the climate, that they tend to do really well in.”
She said while the risk of contracting the virus has decreased recently, people still need to be proactive.
“The cooler temperatures do play into it,” Minicuci said. “But we also, we’re no longer at the peak of mosquito season, so we aren’t seeing as many cases. They are definitely slowing down. But we do continue to see new cases. So we are continuing to monitor the situation.”
She said there are a number of things people can do to protect themselves from mosquitoes and the spread of West Nile virus.
“Even though we are no longer at the peak of mosquito season, people still need to be taking precautions to protect themselves,” Minicuci said. “And the very simple things that they can do include wearing insect repellant that contains a product such as DEET or another EPA-approved ingredient when they go outside. Also, avoid being outside when mosquitoes are most active, and that’s dusk and dawn. Make sure to drain any standing water that they have around their home, and that can be in buckets or gutters or kiddie pools. Because those dirty buckets of water, those are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, so we want to make sure that we’re cleaning those out.”
Minicuci said people should also check the screens around their home to make sure there are no holes that could allow mosquitoes to get inside.
According to the MDCH, most people infected with West Nile virus will experience no symptoms at all. Around 20 percent will develop mild flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes or body rash. Those symptoms will last a few days.
However, in some cases, especially in the elderly, the virus can cause serious disease that can lead to permanent neurological damage that can be fatal. The MDCH reports that around one in 150 people will progress to WNV encephalitis, meningitis or meningeoencephalitis.
Symptoms include headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, stupor, tremors, seizures or convulsions, paralysis, muscle weakness, loss of consciousness and death.
The MDCH says there is no specific treatment for the virus — antibiotics are not effective and no antiviral drugs have been used successfully. Treatment is aimed at reducing the symptoms and shortening the illness. Those with severe cases may require hospitalization.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit www.michigan.gov/westnile.