West Nile Virus

By: Rachel Calderon
By: Rachel Calderon

The number of West Nile virus cases continues to rise nationally and Michigan's death count makes up more than 20 percent of the national death count. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the federal government is putting Michigan at the top of their federal aid priority list.

"John Engler called me and said your state needed more help so I went into my budget and gave Michigan an additional $500,000. I think we've given Michigan almost $1 million to fight the West Nile virus," said Sec. Thompson.

But state health officials say federal assistance goes beyond financial aid, and any assistance is much needed and appreciated.

"It's financial aid, it's assistance from a laboratory perspective, epidemiology perspective. It's also a great deal of collaboration and cooperation on investigating," said Geralyn Lasher, MI Department of Community Health.

Meanwhile Sec. Thompson says his department is working to produce a vaccine or an antibiotic, but emphasizes that science takes time. While waiting, the public should continue to take precautionary measures to keep themselves out of the death count.

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West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report


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