The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports the first West Nile virus activity for Michigan in 2020 has been found in a captive hawk from Lapeer County. The agency reminds residents that the best way to protect themselves against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis, is to prevent mosquito bites Last year, 12 Michigan residents were diagnosed with West Nile virus (WNV) .
“It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors.”
Although WNV is common in Michigan, in 2019 the state experienced the worst outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus ever recorded. There was EEE activity reported in 20 Michigan counties, with 50 cases in animals and 10 people infected with EEE, including six deaths. Nationally, 26 states reported EEE activity, with 38 human cases and 19 deaths occurring in 10 of those states. To date, there has not been EEE detected in Michigan, however this virus is typically detected later in the summer.
Symptoms of arbovirus infection, like WNV, typically include a high fever, confusion, muscle weakness and a severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis.
WNV and EEE are 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 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:
For information about the current WNV and EEE activity in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases. A summary of Michigan counties in which arbovirus infection has been detected in mosquitoes, animals and people is included.