West Nile Spreading in Mid-Michigan

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

The mosquitos are out this summer. So is Carol Regnier, playing tennis near her Bath Township home.

She's trying to prevent contact with those winged pests by putting on bug spray.

"I do when I'm playing a sport but if I'm around the house I don't," Regnier said.

She says she's more likely put on bug spray more often after hearing a bird carrying West Nile Virus was found in her community.

"The sandhill crane was found in Bath. The great blue heron was found in Eagle," said Dr. Robert Graham, medical director for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, which serves Clinton County.

The department says the two birds were found in rural Clinton County, not in neighborhoods or public parks. But experts say once the virus is found somewhere in mid-Michigan, it's likely spreading throughout the region.

If you find a dead bird, health experts say don't touch it -- and call your county health department.

One Ingham County mosquito pool tested positive for West Nile last week.

"That, along with the birds you've mentioned indicates the virus is right here and really in the environment people are also in," Michigan State University entemologist Ned Walker said.

Walker says to protect yourself from West Nile you have to protect yourself from mosquitos. The best remedy for that, he says, is bug spray or lotion with deet.

Even if the virus spreads to people in mid-Michigan again this season, 80 percent of people who contract the virus don't see any serious health effects. Severe health problems occur only for a tiny fraction. Still, up to 20 percent of humans with the virus experience some health problems.

Experts say the virus is most dangerous for older adults, especially those older than 75.

"It's not a good time for people to let their guard down and not worry about the importance of mosquito bites," Walker said.

That's advice Carol Regnier says she'll heed.

"It's not going to keep me from doing what I want to do, but I will take these precautions -- especially since it's been found in my community here."

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