Risk of West Nile

By: Jessica Aspiras
By: Jessica Aspiras

"We just assume that it's out there. It's out there in the bird population. It's out in the mosquito population."

It's West Nile Virus. An illness starting in birds, contracted by mosquitoes and quite frequently spread to humans.

"I suspect that there are tens of thousands of people around Michigan and our area who have had the West Nile Virus infection and don't know it."

According to Dr. Dean Sienko, of the Ingham County Health Department, West Nile has become a part of the ecology in the US. But only about 1 out of every 150 people bitten by an infected mosquito will have symptoms. Although the number of cases in Michigan last year was 62, it was only one in Ingham County.

"When you have mosquitoes that carry the virus, and there's a lot of mosquitoes out there that would increase the risk."

Usually West Nile cases begin popping up around August but could come sooner this year because of the increasing mosquito population.

"People might have a high fever or stiff neck. They may not like bright lights in their eyes. They may get confused."

Still Dr. Sienko says there's no need to be alarmed.

"The good news is that for most people this will be a sub-clinical infection. They won't even know that they have the virus."

It's simply the itching and scratching you'll most likely have to worry about.

Some tips to avoid getting eaten by mosquitoes include, staying indoors during dawn or dusk when the bugs are most active, wear loose clothing, long sleeves, and long pants, and use a repellant with DEET.


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