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MDHHS detects first West Nile virus activity of the year

Human case of West Nile confirmed in Bay County. (Franco Patrizia)
Human case of West Nile confirmed in Bay County. (Franco Patrizia)(WJHG)
Published: Jun. 5, 2020 at 12:18 PM EDT
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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first case of West Nile virus in 2020.

The MDHHS said the virus was reported in a captive hawk from Lapeer County.

MDHHS wants to remind residents that the best way to protect against the virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), is to prevent mosquito bites.

The MDHHS said back in 2019, West Nile virus infected 12 Michigan residents and 20 animals and birds.

“It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors.”

In terms of EEE, the MDHHS said the state of Michigan experiences the worst outbreak ever recorded in 2019, with EEE activity reported in 20 Michigan counties with 50 cases in animals and 10 people infected including six deaths.

The MDHHS said to date, there has not been EEE detected in Michigan, but said the virus is usually detected later in the summer.

The MDHHS said West Nile and EEE are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. The department said most people who become infected with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness but can become ill three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

The MDHHS said mosquitos that transmit the West Nile virus may breed near people's homes in storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds and unused pools.

MDHHS said to take the following precautions to protect yourself against West Nile or any other mosquito-borne illnesses.

• Using EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone; follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed.

o Don’t use repellent on children under 2 months old. Instead dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs and cover crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting.

• Wearing shoes and socks, light-colored long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors.

• Making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings.

• Using bed nets when sleeping outdoors or in conditions with no window screens.

• Eliminating all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding around your home, including water in birdbaths, abandoned swimming pools, wading pools, old tires and any other object holding water once a week.

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