Health officials: Shield yourself from summer pests

West Nile virus reported in three counties

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published July 5, 2019

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MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County health officials are reminding residents to protect themselves from West Nile virus after activity was confirmed in Oakland, Saginaw and Kalamazoo counties.

The first West Nile virus activity for Michigan in 2019 was confirmed in June in mosquitoes collected in Saginaw and Oakland counties, and in a Canada goose in Kalamazoo County, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported.

There have been no confirmed cases of human infection.

“Although the positive pool was found in Pontiac, this is an indicator that West Nile virus is present in Oakland County communities,” Leigh-Anne Stafford, a health officer for the Oakland County Health Division, said in a press release on June 14. “Residents are encouraged to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”

West Nile is a virus most commonly spread to people through mosquito bites. In North America, cases of West Nile virus occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through the fall. People who work in outdoor occupations or spend time outdoors often are at an increased risk for West Nile virus infection from mosquito bites.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat West Nile virus in humans. Most people who become infected with the virus will not develop any symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure. Mild symptoms of illness may include headaches, body aches, joint pain or a rash. Some severe symptoms of West Nile virus may include a stiff neck, disorientation, tremors and muscle weakness. Adults 60 and older have the highest risk of severe illness caused by West Nile virus.

But the most effective way to avoid being infected by West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

The Macomb County Health Department recommends that residents take the following steps:

• Apply EPA-approved insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol to exposed skin and clothing. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.

• Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.

• Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

• Eliminate 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.

• Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

“It is very important to stay vigilant and protected against mosquito bites throughout the summer and fall seasons,” said Bill Ridella, health officer for the Macomb County Health Department. “All residents need to take action to prevent bites by using appropriate mosquito repellent and take extra precaution during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are at dusk and dawn.”

Mosquito bites can cause skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva, which is what causes a red bump and itching. But a more serious consequence of some mosquito bites may be the transmission of serious diseases and viruses such as malaria, dengue virus, Zika and West Nile, which can lead to disabling and potentially deadly effects such as encephalitis, meningitis and microcephaly, according to the EPA.

Not only can mosquitoes carry diseases that afflict humans, but they also can transmit several diseases and parasites that dogs and horses are very susceptible to, according to the EPA. These include dog heartworm, eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile.

Different species of mosquitoes prefer different types of standing water in which to lay their eggs. The presence of beneficial predators such as fish and dragonfly nymphs in permanent ponds, lakes and streams help keep these bodies of water relatively free of mosquito larvae. However, portions of marshes, swamps, clogged ditches, and temporary pools and puddles are all prolific mosquito breeding sites.

Other sites in which some species lay their eggs include tree holes, old tires, buckets, toys, potted plant trays and saucers, plastic covers or tarps, as well as places as small as bottle caps.

For more information about West Nile virus, visit health.macombgov.org/Health-Programs-EnvironmentalHealth-Safety-WestNileVirus.

For information on finding EPA-registered mosquito adulticides and larvicides, visit epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.

To reach the Macomb County Health Department in Mount Clemens, call (586) 469-5235.

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