West Nile Virus reported in Elkhart County, parts of Michigan

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("Woodland Mosquito" by Katja Schulz, CC BY 2.0)

It’s that time of year again, and the West Nile Virus is showing up in Michiana.

The Elkhart County Health Department confirmed that they found the virus in some mosquitoes they had collected in the southern part of the county, though The Goshen News reports that it could be in other parts , as well.

The health department is reminding residents to take precautions like using an EPA registered insect repellent, covering exposed skin if out during peak times, putting screens on doors and windows, and clearing any standing water on property, even down to the size of a bottle cap.

Meantime, the Michigan Department of Health released the following information about West Nile in that state:

The first West Nile virus activity for Michigan in 2019 has been confirmed in mosquitoes recently collected in Saginaw and Oakland counties and a Canada goose in Kalamazoo County. Residents are reminded that the best way to protect against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to prevent mosquito bites.

People who work in outdoor occupations or like to spend time outdoors are at increased risk for West Nile virus infection from mosquito bites. Adults 60 years old and older have the highest risk of severe illness caused by West Nile virus.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include a high fever, confusion, muscles weakness and a severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, there were 104 serious illnesses and nine deaths related to West Nile virus in Michigan. Nationally, there were 2,544 human cases of the virus and 137 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018.

“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, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using insect repellant wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors during those time periods.”

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people who contract the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. As summer temperatures rise, mosquitoes and the virus develop more quickly so it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites as the weather warms.

Mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus may breed near people’s homes in storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds and unused pools. They will readily come indoors to bite if window and door screens are not maintained.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:

  • Using EPA registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, and 2-undecanone; follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed.
  • Don’t use repellent on children under 2 months old. Instead dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs and cover crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
  • Wearing shoes and socks, light colored long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors.
  • 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 that can support mosquito breeding around your home, including water in bird baths, abandoned swimming pools, wading pools, old tires and any other object holding water once a week.

For more information, visit Michigan.gov/westnilevirus or Cdc.gov/westnile.

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