West Nile Fears

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As the number of deaths and illnesses from West Nile virus continues to grow in Michigan, so does fear.

State health officials say there have been 343 probable and confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus in 15 Michigan counties. Twenty-four of those cases -- nearly one-fifth of the nationwide total -- have been fatal.

The victims include 78-year-old Morris Frith, a retired autoworker from the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming. Becki Waggoner says it's frustrating that a "little bug" took the life of her grandfather.

Only one-percent of people bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito show any symptoms of the virus, and a fraction of those become seriously ill. Most people simply have flu-like symptoms.

Doctor Rula Mahayni is an infectious disease specialist with Saint Joseph Mercy-Oakland Hospital in Pontiac. Mahayni says adults who get flu-like symptoms should wait a few days to see if the symptoms get worse.

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Mosquito Protection Tips

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, hats and boots to reduce exposed skin.

  • Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.

  • Apply repellent liberally to all exposed skin areas.

  • Apply repellents to clothing, shoes, tents, mosquito nets, and other gear.

  • Use mosquito coils (ensure coils do not contain DDT).

  • Sleep in well-screened areas whenever possible.

  • Ensure that door and window screens fit tightly and do not have holes.

  • Insect repellents that contain 30-35 percent DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) will provide adults with sufficient protection. The concentration of DEET in a repellent should not exceed 35 percent. Products with lower concentrations of DEET are effective but for a shorter period of time.

  • Reducing the amount of standing water on your property can significantly decrease the potential for mosquito breeding around your home.

  • Common breeding sites may include garbage cans, clogged roof gutters/drainage ditches, birdbaths, pool covers, flowerpots, tires, tarps, rainwater barrels, wading pools etc.

  • Containers that may accumulate water should be removed or holes drilled in the bottom.

  • Pools should be maintained and ornamental pools aerated or stocked with fish.

Source: www.lambtonhealth.on.ca/environmental/mosquito.asp contributed to this report.