Update: West Nile virus reaches epidemic level in Michigan

Aug 30, 2012

Update Aug. 30, 10:30 a.m.

Michigan health officials say an 87-year-old woman from Kent County is the fifth person to die from the West Nile virus in the state this year.

State Department of Community Health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci confirmed the death this morning.

She had no other details on the woman.

Aug. 29, 2012

Reports of West Nile virus cases keep coming in, and now Michigan health officials say the illness has reached epidemic proportions in the state.

Michigan State University entomologist Ned Walker recently told Michigan Radio's Rina Miller that the intensity of the virus is very alarming.  "I haven't seen anything that is this intense in my career," said Walker.

Officials said today an 86-year-old woman from Wayne County is the fourth person to die from the West Nile virus in the state this year.

Michigan Department of Community Health Interim Chief Medical Executive Dean Sienko said there have been 80 human cases of West Nile virus in the state this year. Of those cases, 62 people required hospitalization.

Sienko classified the West Nile virus in Michigan as an epidemic. From the Detroit Free Press:

“We are having an epidemic here in Michigan,” said Dr. Dean Sienko, interim chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health, speaking this morning in a telephone media briefing on the problem.

“This is serious. This is something people need to pay attention to, particularly over the age of 50’’ who are most vulnerable to developing serious health problems from the disease.

The Associated Press reports "in all of 2011, Michigan recorded 34 human cases of West Nile virus and two deaths."

Experts think a mild winter, early spring and hot summer have helped stimulate mosquito breeding and the spread of the virus.

To prevent the disease, experts say you should eliminate any standing water in your yard (where mosquitoes like to breed), and to repel mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves, and mosquito repellant.