YPSILANTI, MI – A dead green heron found in Ypsilanti tested positive for West Nile virus Wednesday, June 21, according to a press release from Washtenaw County Public Health.
In Michigan, no human cases of the virus have been identified this year.
Laura Bauman, epidemiology program manager for Washtenaw County Public Health, said they can’t determine if it will be a “bad West Nile summer” until August.
“We’re worried about (West Nile) every summer, because we know West Nile is here to stay and we’ll see it every summer,” she said. “What we really want people to think about is that West Nile is here and as we’re spending time outdoors on the Fourth of July and all throughout the month, you need to protect yourself because you don’t know which (mosquito) bite carries West Nile.”
West Nile is a virus that can result in symptoms ranging from fever to encephalitis or meningitis both in humans and animals. Transmission typically is through a bite from an infected mosquito. The bugs become infected after feeding on birds that carry the virus in their body.
The risk of illness is extremely small, according to West Nile tip sheet listed on the Washtenaw County government website. Risk of catching the disease is higher for people over age 50 or with a weakened immune system.
Those afflicted typically become ill three to 15 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.
In 2016, Michigan had 43 human cases and three deaths from West Nile. Washtenaw County counted for two of those cases and had no deaths.
Washtenaw County Public Health issued a list of tips to keep safe during the summer. This included educating people on getting rid of standing water to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs in old cans, ditches or swimming pools and using personal protection measures like mosquito repellent.
Dead birds should also be reported to the State of Michigan Sick or Dead Bird and Mammal website. Repeat sightings of dead birds – particularly crows, ravens or blue jays – in an area can indicate the possibility of the virus being active in a community.
August and September are listed as months “of greatest risk to humans for becoming infected with West Nile in Michigan,” according to the release.
A chart of current virus activity in Washtenaw County is accessible online.