Oakland County mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus

By: Kayla Dimick | C&G Newspapers | Published July 6, 2016

Officials from the Oakland County Health Division are reminding residents to take proper precautions against West Nile virus this summer, as a pool of mosquitoes recently tested positive for the disease.

“We have traps set in Oakland County, and we routinely go through and check the traps for mosquitoes and test them for West Nile,” Kathy Forzley, manager of the Oakland County Health Division, said. “We had our first positive.”

According to the Oakland County Health Division, West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain. Mosquitoes get infected with the disease by biting a bird that carries the virus, which is then spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Most people who are infected with the virus have either no symptoms or experience mild illness, such as a fever, headache and body aches, Forzley said in a news release. In some individuals, especially the elderly, the disease can develop more seriously and affect brain tissue.

Forzley said the discovery of the virus came significantly earlier than in previous years, by about one month. The discovery comes a bit earlier due to the recent hot and dry weather conditions.

“The years that we don’t have these huge downpours of rain in the spring, this allows the mosquito to breed and go through maturation and are then able to bite birds who might be infected and transmit it throughout the community,” she said. “People are always surprised when I say the hot, dry weather is really conducive to seeing West Nile virus circulating the community earlier.”

Although no human cases of the virus have been confirmed yet this year, usually West Nile materializing earlier in the year means more human cases, Forzley said.

The Oakland County Health Division is not planning on releasing information on the whereabouts of the trap, Forzley said.
“We don’t provide locations because it gives a false sense of security if you don’t live near it. If you do live near it, it gives you an unrealistic fear,” she said. “The fact is it provides some confirmation that West Nile is circulating in the community and residents need to take prevention measures.”

The best way to prevent being infected with West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites, Forzley said.

Forzley recommends spraying clothing and exposed skin with insect repellent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of insect repellents containing active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Two products registered with the EPA that have shown a high degree of effectiveness are DEET and Picaridin.

Officials also recommend minimizing activities where mosquitoes are present and wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors. Residents should also eliminate standing water in their yards by emptying water from mosquito breeding sites, such as  flower pots, pet bowls, clogged drain gutters, swimming pool covers, discarded tires, buckets, barrels, cans and similar items in which mosquitoes can lay eggs.

“We need to take special precautions. One thing everyone can do right now is check their screens in their windows and doors and to be sure they’re fitting properly so that mosquitoes can’t come inside,” Forzley said.

Forzley also said residents should report dead birds in their area, because the Michigan Department for Natural Resources tracks the spread of the West Nile virus through birds.

To report a single dead bird, go to www.michigandnr.com/diseasedwildlifereporting/disease_obsreport.asp. To report three or more dead birds, call (517) 336-5030.