LANSING (AP) – Frost and colder temperatures appear to have killed off mosquitos and stopped the transmission of the West Nile virus in Michigan, according to the state health department.

The mosquito-borne virus has killed 40 people in Michigan and sickened 472 others so far this year, Geralyn Lasher, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Health, said yesterday.

Michigan had the second highest number of West Nile deaths and illnesses behind Illinois, which had 45 deaths and 714 illnesses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, 3,391 people were sickened by the West Nile virus this year and 188 were killed, according to the CDC’s website.

Michigan’s health department will continue updating its tally of West Nile deaths and illnesses as it tests blood samples from people who may have contracted the virus in August or September, Lasher said.

If a person demonstrates serious symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis, medical providers take a sample of spinal fluid to test for the West Nile virus. If symptoms are less severe, blood samples are taken. Blood samples are typically tested after samples of spinal fluid.

“We got a lot of blood samples that we’re catching up on now,” said Dr. David Johnson, chief medical executive for the health department. “Blood samples are no longer coming in to any appreciable degree.”

Johnson said he thinks the department will be finished testing samples before Thanksgiving.

The average age of those who contracted the virus in Michigan this year was 57, the state health department said. The average age of people who died after contracting the virus was 74.

Wayne County, the state’s largest, had the most West Nile cases with 154, the department said. Oakland County reported 152. Other counties with probable or confirmed cases of the virus are:

– Allegan, Arenac, Barry, Bay, Cass, Eaton, Genesee, Muskegon, Otsego, Saginaw, Sanilac, one each;

– Lenawee, Newaygo and St. Clair, two each;

– Kalamazoo and Van Buren, three each;

– Ingham and Ottawa, eight each;

– Kent, 51;

– Macomb, 71.

“I don’t think anybody really expected to see the number of cases we saw this year in Michigan or even nationally,” said Mike Mullet, spokesman for the Kent County Health Department.

“But we come away with a lot more knowledge than we had a year ago. Come next spring, people will have a basic knowledge that a lot of the reduction is up to an individual.”

Health officials this summer saw a dramatic spike in the number of calls they received from people wanting to know more about the West Nile virus, named for the Ugandan region where it first appeared in 1937.

Health officials recommended wearing long sleeves, socks and pants. They also suggested draining standing water that may become a mosquito breeding site, such as from flower pots, pet bowls, clogged rain gutters, swimming pool covers and discarded tires.

Most people infected with the West Nile virus don’t have any symptoms, according to health officials. But even those who have the virus and don’t have any symptoms, such as fever, headache and stiff neck, become immune to West Nile virus.

“It’s impossible to say what will happen next year,” Mullet said. “But I think we’re starting to grow some immunity in the population.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.