First confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in Michigan for 2013 season

(WXYZ) - Michigan health officials have confirmed the first 2013 case of West Nile Virus in a St. Joseph County man, and urge people to remember to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

"We have clear evidence that West Nile Virus is present in the state again this summer," said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive at the Michigan Department of Community Health. "Taking a few minutes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites can make a big difference."

A press release from the Michigan Department of Community Health said that most people infected with the West Nile Virus don't have any symptoms. Some people do however become sick three to 15 days after being bitten. Mild illness with fever is seen in one-in-five infected people. Severe illnesses, such as encephalitis and meningitis, are seen in about one in 150 infected people. Symptoms of the illnesses include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.

People 50 and older have a greater chance of having a severe reaction to West Nile Virus.

This season in Michigan, eight birds have tested positive for the West Nile Virus; four birds were in Saginaw County, one in Bay County, one in Midland County, one in Gratiot County and one in Wayne County.

A Michigan Department of Community Health press release said that though there are no positive West Nile Virus mosquito pools, infected birds and mosquitoes can provide an early warning of West Nile Virus activity in the community which is why it is necessary for people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

There were 202 reported West Nile Virus illnesses last year in Michigan along with 17 fatalities.

To avoid West Nile Virus, the Michigan Department of Community Health urges Michigan residents to take the following steps:
• Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
• Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddy pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
• Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
• Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. 
• Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved product to exposed skin or clothing, always following the manufacturer's directions for use.

Other tips from a Michigan Department of Community Health press release that residents should take into account are to choose repellents that have concentrations rated for the amount of time you will be spending outside; don't apply spray directly to children, instead apply it to your own hands and rub it on them so you avoid getting it in their eyes and mouths; and don't apply bug repellent to infants under 6 months, instead place nets over strollers and baby carriers.

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