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LANSING (WWJ) - The Michigan Department of Community Health says a third person has now died from West Nile virus in the state, with 66 cases documented so far this year.
Officials confirmed Thursday night that the latest victim was an 84-year-old man from Wayne County. Last week, the first death related to the virus was reported, an elderly woman from Washtenaw County, and earlier Thursday, officials confirmed a second death, a 69-year-old man from Detroit.
Those deaths bring the total number of cases documented in Michigan so far this year to a staggering 66 — at least 35 of them in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.
Angela Minicuci, with the state health department, said its the highest number of West Nile cases since the state began tracking the mosquito-borne disease a decade ago. The age of victims ranges between 18 and 86.
State health officials say the dry summer is partly to blame for the influx of West Nile danger. Heavy rains flush out the mosquitos which carry the virus and, with the drought, that just hasn’t been happening.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and/or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).
In 2011, there were 34 human cases of West Nile reported in Michigan, including two fatalities — one from Macomb County and one from the City of Detroit.
There are ways to protect yourself from the virus, according to University of Michigan School of Public Health clinical associate professor, Dr. Eden Wells.
“If there’s any stagnant water , any areas such as bird baths that are in back yards & such, need to be rinsed out & not allowed to , to , be standing ,” Well said. “Using a products that can control mosquitoes, you know, avoid mosquito bites and such is always a good idea.”
Wells said most people don’t show symptoms of the virus, although about 20 percent do.
“They have fever, maybe they’re feeling achy, headache, perhaps nausea and vomiting — almost feeling like they have the flu. And, some of these symptoms can be very short, just a few days long , but some can actually last longer into weeks,” she said.
More information on West Nile including the latest from state health officials can be found at this link. Go under the ‘testing tables and maps’ link on the left to find an updated map and table of human cases.