GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ) – A fifth death associated with the mosquito-borne West Nile virus has been reported in Michigan.
Grand Rapids commissioner Walt Gutowski his 87-year-old mother has died from WNV. Gutowski told WOOD-TV his 87-year-old mother, Lorraine, passed away after being admitted to a hospital with flu-like symptoms. He said tests later revealed she had WNV. Officials at the Kent County Health Department confirmed the death.
Lorraine Gutowski’s death means five people this year have now died from the virus in Michigan.
No information has been released yet about the fourth victim, except that the death was reported in Wayne County. Last week the third death was reported, an 84-year-old Texas man who was visiting family in Wayne County. Two other deaths were reporter earlier this month, an elderly woman from Washtenaw County and a 69-year-old man from Detroit.
State health officials on Wednesday said there are at least 80 confirmed cases of WNV illness in Michigan. In addition to the human cases, WNV has also been found in livestock and wildlife across the state.
Most people bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito show no symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure. People 50 and older are more susceptible to severe WNV disease symptoms.
Michigan residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid WNV:
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing.
• Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
• Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
• Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
The mosquitoes that transmit WNV to humans lay eggs in small pools of standing water. Adult mosquitoes can hatch in 10 days in warm weather. Mosquitoes become infected and transmit WNV after feeding on birds carrying the virus. Within 10 to 14 days, the mosquito can transmit the virus to humans and horses.
Many of the same precautions people take can also be used to protect livestock:
• Since West Nile Virus is spread to horses through the bite of an infected mosquito, protection measures that reduce the exposure to mosquito bites should be adopted.
• It is not too late to vaccinate horses this season. Talk to your veterinarian for details.
• Use approved insect repellants to protect horses. If possible, put horses in stables, stalls, or barns, preferably under fans, during the prime mosquito exposure hours of dusk and dawn.
• Eliminate standing water, and drain troughs and buckets at least once a week.
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.