LANSING (WWJ) – A Washtenaw County woman is confirmed to be the state’s first human West Nile Virus death this year.

Michigan health officials say the woman, between 75 and 85 years old, was hospitalized earlier this month with viral meningitis and has since died. WNV can cause serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis and can have long-term health consequences.

Dr. Corinne Miller, State Epidemiologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health, says WNV cases are on the rise both nationally and in lower Michigan.   So far in 2012, a total of 693 cases of the disease, including 26 deaths, have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Dr. Miller said the risk for virus transmission will remain extremely high throughout the summer and fall.

“The unusually hot and dry summer has favored the mosquitoes that transmit WNV. These same conditions have led to a reduction in the number of “nuisance” mosquitoes which are more abundant during wet summers, giving citizens a false sense of security,” said Dr. Miller.

Last year, WNV was responsible for 34 serious illnesses and two fatalities in Michigan.

Michigan residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid WNV:

• Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
• Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
• Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing, especially during peak mosquito activity periods such as dusk and dawn.
• Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

For more information and updates about WNV, visit this link.

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