Take precautions against West Nile virus
With five related deaths and 104 human cases of West Nile virus so far in the state of Michigan this year, now is the best time to take precautions against contracting the virus.
Because of the hot and dry summer, mosquitoes that transmit the virus are more prevalent this year, and because of that, people should be even more careful to take the necessary actions to protect themselves from it.
The Michigan Department of Community Health offers the following tips to protect yourself from West Nile virus:
• Reduce your time outdoors, especially at dusk, during mosquito seasons.
• Wear lightweight long sleeves and long pants if you are outdoors.
• If outdoors, apply insect repellant that contains the active ingredient DEET to exposed skin or clothing. Repellants containing picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus have recently become EPA approved and recommended for use by the Centers for Disease Control.
• Maintain window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
• Drain standing water in your yard because it is a potential mosquito breeding site. Empty standing water from flower pot bases, pet bowls, clogged rain gutters, swimming pool covers, discarded tires, buckets, barrels, cans, etc.
Most importantly, people should be aware of the symptoms to watch out for if they contract the virus. According to the MDCH, most people infected with West Nile virus will experience no symptoms at all. Around 20 percent will develop mild flu-like symptoms which may last a few days. Those symptoms include: fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and/or body rash.
Approximately one in 150 people will come down with an infection called West Nile virus encephalitis — inflammation of the brain; West Nile virus meningitis — inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord; or West Nile virus meningeoencephalitis — inflammation of the brain and surrounding membrane.
Severe symptoms can last several weeks and the neurological effects can be permanent. Symptoms include: headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, stupor, tremors, seizures or convulsions, paralysis, muscle weakness, loss of consciousness and/or death.
These diseases can be more severe and likely to occur in those 50 years old or older.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.