Friday, August 24, 2012

Michigan confirms 3rd West Nile death

DETROIT (AP) — An 84-year-old Texas man visiting family in the Detroit area died from West Nile virus, the third death in the state this year, officials said Friday.

Although Texas has hundreds of West Nile cases, the man likely got the illness while in Wayne County, said 

Angela Minicuci, spokeswoman at the Michigan Department of Community Health.
He died in mid-August, but a name and other details were not released.

Meanwhile, a Michigan State University researcher whose specialties include studying the spread of West Nile said mosquitoes carrying the virus are likely to be active into October.

Cases reported now "probably are from bites from three weeks ago," Ned Walker said. "I'm not a gambling person, but I believe we'll reach 100 cases or more."

Michigan has confirmed at least 47 cases of West Nile, including the three deaths. The majority have been in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Separately, the virus has been detected in the blood of 22 blood donors.

"Only one in five people actually experience any symptoms," Minicuci said. "(The) majority of the population can have the virus and their system will fight it off."

Mosquitoes pick up the virus from birds they bite and then pass it to people. In its most severe form, the virus can attack the body's neurological system.

Experts advise people to get rid of standing water, use bug repellant and wear long sleeves and long pants in the evening.

Walker, chief investigator at MSU's insect microbiology lab, said mosquitoes that carry the virus thrive in neglected swimming pools and urban street drains. A summer with little rain, he added, doesn't mean fewer mosquitoes with West Nile.

"The warmer it is, the faster the incubation period. So you can see the infection rate go up," Walker said.

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