mosquitoes

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The first human case of West Nile virus is being reported in Michigan this week.

Last year, the virus killed 17 people in this state.

Here's the good news: There has been lots of rain this year.

It turns out the kind of mosquitos that carry West Nile like dry, hot weather.

The bad news: we're not in the clear yet. August and September are the peak months for mosquitos.

It wasn't until this time last year that Michigan had its first human case in 2012.

"The fact is, we're seeing it in animals, now we're seeing it in humans,” says

James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Michigan’s West Nile Virus season is getting off to an earlier than normal start.

State health officials report a wild turkey in Gratiot County tested positive for the mosquito-borne illness last month.

Angela Minicuci is with the Michigan Department of Community Health. She says the first signs of West Nile don’t usually appear in Michigan until the end of June or the beginning of July.

“So to see it toward the end of May is a little bit earlier than usual…but it’s not strange considering how strong of a West Nile year we had last year,” says Minicuci.

user trebol-a / Flickr

The worst mosquito swarms I’ve ever experienced are at my dad’s house in the country.

I’ll let my stepmom, Patty, explain:

“We actually run from the house to the car and when you open the door you get many in there, probably 30-40 mosquitoes, so you start swatting and you have to roll down your window and drive, as you’re getting eaten, to try to get the mosquitoes out.”

She says this spring is the worst she’s ever seen. It’s so bad, they attack you the minute you walk out the door and bite you through your clothes.  

So I decided to turn to a mosquito expert to find out what’s going on.

DETROIT (AP) - People celebrating Labor Day weekend outdoors in Michigan could be setting themselves up as the main course for feasting mosquitoes including the species known to carry the West Nile virus.

The disease has become the summer scourge across the country and the state where on Thursday an 87-year-old Kent County woman became its fifth fatality.

user xpistwv / MorgueFile.com

Michigan officials say a second person has died from the West Nile virus, and 18 more cases have been reported this week.

Today, the Michigan Department of Community Health released figures (see chart) showing two deaths and 41 cases this season.

Officials last week said an elderly woman in Washtenaw County died from West Nile. Details of the most recent death were not released.

The data shows cases span several counties, including nine cases in Wayne, eight in Macomb, six in Oakland and seven in Detroit.

Yesterday, federal officials reported four times the usual number of cases in the current U.S. West Nile outbreak.

So far, 1,118 illnesses and 41 deaths have been reported nationwide. Typically, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August.

Prevention tips include draining standing water in your yard, avoiding skin exposure to mosquitos, wearing mosquito repellant and reporting sick or dead animals to authorities.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Maybe you’ve noticed you haven’t been swatting a lot of mosquitoes this summer. 

“It’s been a strangely quiet year for nuisance mosquitoes in particular.”

Michael Kaufman is a mosquito expert and an associate professor at Michigan State University. 

“Most people think all mosquitoes are a nuisance and I guess I’d have to agree with that. But the ones most people complain about come out in large numbers after rain events or spring snow melts and things like that.”

Think of nuisance mosquitoes as the kind that attack you in swarms.

Kaufman says it’s been so dry that we haven’t had the usual bursts of mosquitoes that you get after a big rain. 

But he says ironically, our hot, dry summer has been ideal for the species of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.  The species Culex pipiens is the one experts are most concerned about... and those guys like it when it’s hot.

“The Culex breed in areas that don’t necessarily need that much water. A really good source of them for their larval development is what we call catch basins or parts of storm sewer drainage systems.”

Kaufman says they also like standing water in bird baths and kiddie pools.

Michigan has its first probable human case of West Nile Virus this summer.  An unnamed Macomb County man died recently, after showing symptoms consistent with the mosquito-borne disease. Lab tests are underway to confirm this was a case of West Nile Virus.  

Sue Tremonti is with the Macomb County Health Department.  She says West Nile Virus infections are more prevalent than most people think. 

(Flickr Coastlander)

The search for signs of West Nile Virus is once again taking place in Michigan.  Symptoms of the mosquito-borne illness include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches.    August and September is the prime time for the virus.  

West Nile Virus first appeared in Michigan in 2002 and the number of human cases peaked a few years later.  Kim Signs is an epidemiologist with the state Department of Community Health.

Mosquito Invasion!

May 29, 2011
user trebol-a / Flickr

Mosquitoes are expected to be an even bigger annoyance than usual for Michiganders this summer.  Heavy rains in April and May have set the stage for a big burst of mosquitoes in Michigan this year.