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First West Nile Virus Activity of 2012 Detected in Michigan MDCH Urges Citizens to "Fight the Bite" During the July 4 Holiday


LANSING - In the past week, West Nile Virus (WNV) activity has been identified in two Michigan counties. Being the earliest detection of WNV activity in Michigan in several years, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is urging citizens to remember to apply repellents during peak mosquito biting periods (dusk and dawn) and drain standing water around their homes during the holiday.

This past week, a mosquito pool sample collected in mid-June by the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission tested positive for WNV at Michigan State University (MSU). In addition, a wild turkey in Washtenaw County was submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and also tested positive for WNV at MSU. These findings show the virus is circulating in mosquitoes and birds in the state which could present a risk to human health.

Due to an unusually warm spring, mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile hatched early and are on the rise in Michigan, according to the state's mosquito control districts. West Nile can cause serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, WNV was responsible for 34 serious illnesses and two fatalities in Michigan. Nationally, 712 WNV cases and 34 deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Hot and dry conditions favor development of the virus and the mosquitoes that transmit it," said Erik Foster, medical entomologist at MDCH. "These mosquitoes may breed near people's homes in storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds, and unused pools. When these areas are not flushed out by rains, it becomes stagnant and highly organic, which is appealing to mosquitoes that can transmit the disease."

During the upcoming holiday when people spend more time outdoors, it's especially important to take precautions against mosquito bites. While activity has been detected in only two counties so far, all Michigan residents should follow simple, effective strategies to protect themselves and their loved ones. In particular, citizens are advised to use mosquito repellent products containing EPA-approved active ingredients, such as DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Draining standing water, and making sure door and window screens are in good repair will also help keep mosquitoes out of the home.

"Adults who are 50 and older have the highest risk of illness caused by West Nile Virus. People who work in outdoor occupations like construction and landscaping are also at increased risk of getting bitten by an infected mosquito," said Dr. Corinne Miller, state epidemiologist at MDCH. "One bite from an infected mosquito can lead to a severe and possibly life-altering illness. Prevention is the key to protection."

For up to date information about West Nile activity in Michigan, precaution and treatment information, or to report sick or dead birds, visit Additional information can be found at the CDC's website

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