Health officials warn of mosquito-borne viruses this summer

Published: Jun. 5, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT
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Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said a hawk in Lapeer County is suspected to have the West Nile Virus.

The health department said this is an annual occurrence in Michigan.

The hawk is the first animal in Michigan to be infected with the virus in 2020.

The health department said there were 12 Michiganders infected with the West Nile Virus last year but they had mild symptoms.

Some symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness, and disorientation, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

However, Michigan State University Professor Ned Walker said the virus could leave lasting sickness to it's victims and can even cause death for older people.

MDHHS said it's rare to contract the virus in Michigan.

Another disease mosquitoes can carry is Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

MDHHS said EEE is a much deadlier virus than the West Nile.

According to the health department, EEE causes inflammation of the brain and often leads to death,

Last year, 10 Michiganders had the virus and six of them died.

The virus is often found in birds.

Birds will transmit the virus to mosquitoes who then pass it off to whoever they bite next.

Walker said it's unknown if the virus can weather Michigan winters or if it is brought back from warmer climates by migratory birds.

Walker said, "However there is already EEE activity in Florida and Mississippi this year, so that suggests to me the bird populations have it there and the migratory birds could bring it north."

Walker said there are 65 species of mosquitoes in Michigan and only a a few of those species can carry EEE.

The average person won't be able to tell which mosquitoes carry the disease, but the best way to prevent from getting bit is to use bug spray with DEET in it and wear long sleeves and pants.

There are certain areas of Michigan where mosquitoes like to live.

Walker said, "Southwestern Michigan and parts of southeastern Michigan are endemic to that kind of virus because of the landscape patterns and the bogs, habitats and hardwood swamp habitat, and chains of lakes in those two regions."

MDHHS suggests staying away from standing water like abandoned pools and ponds.

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