According to Michigan health officials, the West Nile virus has affected several people in the state, and although the cases were not life-threatening, residents should still be extra cautious.
Three patients were identified in Macomb and Monroe counties (in south-east Michigan), and in Ottawa County, west of Grand Rapids. None of these people infected with the virus is hospitalized at the moment, declared representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Two other persons who had donated blood, one of whom resides in Oakland County, were diagnosed with the virus, but they show no symptoms.
Meanwhile, in Indiana four counties have reported West Nile virus cases: St Joseph, Huntington, Madison and, most recently, Marion County. According to Health Department officials, mosquitoes carrying the virus were discovered in surveillance traps set up in Marion’s townships.
Infected birds transmit the West Nile virus to mosquitoes, which afterwards pass it to human beings. In general, it takes between 7 and 14 days for the virus to manifest itself.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of the infected people (approximately 75%) show no symptoms, and even if they do they resemble those of a mild flu. Usually, signs of a West Nile virus infection include: fever, weakness, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea, rash, fatigue, headaches and bloodshot eyes.
However, in severe cases the virus can cause life-threatening neurological illness, including acute meningitis and encephalitis. The risk is highest for those older than 50, although even younger people can develop West Nile fever.
The recent bout of hot, dry weather experienced at the beginning of September seems to have been the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. The drought diminishes the water supply available for birds and mosquitoes, which crowd together around remaining water sources.
The risk is significantly higher in urban areas and the suburbs, because the mosquito species encountered there is more susceptible to get the virus.
As a result, in order to diminish the continuous threat associated with contracting the West Nile virus, officials have issued a warning to residents, urging them to drain standing water around homes, which might attract the mosquitoes. Pet owners should replace water in the animals’ bowls and feeding troughs at least twice every week.
Residents should also avoid leaving the house from late afternoon until dawn, when the insects are most active, and take other precautions to keep the gnats at bay.
These protective measures include using bug spray and mosquito repellents approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wearing light-colored, long-sleeved clothes and covering the window openings with insect screens. Ideally, repellents should contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil and para-menthane-diol.
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