SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) What’s behind the nationwide spike in West Nile? After declining the past five years, infections from the virus bounced back up in 2012.

Now, Texas researchers have found a link between a warmer winter and higher infection rates the following summer.

“Our outbreak years in 2012 and 2006 were associated with a lack of winter freezes — so lack of temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit,” said study author, Dr. Wendy Chung. “The same geographic areas within our county tended to be effected more heavily during outbreak years.”

Health officials said 2012 was the worst year for West Nile Virus infections in Michigan since 2003. According to the Centers of Disease Control, 202 cases of West Nile Virus were reported in Michigan last year, including 17 deaths. That’s up significantly from 2011, when there were only 34 documented cases of West Nile Virus in Michigan, and in 2010 when there were 29 reported cases.

So far Michigan has had no reported human West Nile cases for 2013.

The CDC says the best way to prevent West Nile Virus is to avoid mosquito bites:

• Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Use repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and para-menthane-diol (PMD) because these repellents provide longer-lasting protection than other products. Always follow the instructions on the label.

• Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when many mosquitoes are most active.

• Repair or install screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning, if you have it.

• Help reduce the numbers of mosquitoes around your home. Empty standing water from items such as gutters, flowerpots, buckets, and kiddie pools. Change bird baths weekly.

For more on preventing West Nile infection, visit this link.


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