GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A Grand Rapids woman has died after contracting West Nile virus.
Lorraine Gutowski, 87, was the mother of Grand Rapids City Commissioner Walt Gutowski. His secretary confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday afternoon that she had passed away.
The exact cause of her death is not yet available.
The Kent County Health Department released a statement Wednesday afternoon that it had learned of the first death "involving a patient battling West Nile Virus illness" in the county.
Lorraine Gutowski was admitted to a Grand Rapids hospital early last week after showing flu-like symptoms. Tests revealed that she had contracted West Nile virus.
The family wants to thank doctors at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital for taking such good care of Lorraine Gutowski.
Visitation will be Friday at from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuary Remembrance Chapel.
Funeral services will follow on Saturday at 10 a.m. Saint Anthony Padua Catholic Church. Visitation will precede the funeral at the church beginning at 9 a.m.
Gutowski's death may be the fifth caused by West Nile virus in Michigan this year. The others were mainly concentrated in the state's southeast region.
Kent County -- and the state of Michigan -- is on track for a record number of West Nile virus cases.
As of Tuesday, Kent County had confirmed 29 cases of West Nile virus. Ten of those were in prospective blood donors who had not experienced symptoms. Those numbers are expected to continue to rise, according to Kent County Health Department spokeswoman Lisa LaPlante.
Michigan Department of Community Health Interim Chief Medical Executive Dean Sienko told the Associated Press on Monday there have been 80 human cases of West Nile this year in the state. In 62 of those cases, the patients required hospitalization. He said Michigan is experiencing an "epidemic of West Nile virus activity."
Anyone can contract West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, but children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to it.
Symptoms typically present like the flu, LaPlante told 24 Hour News 8 earlier this month as cases started to be confirmed.
Milder symptoms are fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
West Nile virus can also cause neurological illnesses like meningitis and encephalitis that may lead to death.
The City of Grand Rapids announced Tuesday it will again begin to target storm drain catch basins with a larvicide pellet to kill the insects, much like the City of East Grand Rapids did in 2005. The city will concentrate its attack in the areas that have had the highest rates of infection.
"If you have a loved one who looks like they are having flu-like symptoms, don't just assume that's what it is like I did," Walt Gutowski said at the city commission meeting Tuesday.
Recommendations from the Kent County Health Department:
- Use insect repellent when outdoors. Apply repellent to clothing and exposed skin, and follow directions on the product label.
- Don't apply repellent under clothing, or on cuts, wounds or irritated skin. You should not apply repellent around the eyes or mouth, and if using spray, apply spray to your hands first, and then apply to face.
- Repellent should not be used on infants under 2 months old at all. KCHD recommends putting netting over the infant's stroller. DEET-containing products should be avoided for children 24 months of age or younger, and those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not to be used on children under three years of age.
- When using repellent on children, put it on your hands first, then on the child. Children tend to put their hands in or near their mouths, so don't apply repellent to a child's hands.
- After you and your children get back indoors, wash off the repellent with soap and water, and wash treated clothing before wearing again.
- At home, be sure you are not making it easy for mosquitoes to breed. Make sure to eliminate any standing water. Twice a week, empty water from birdbaths, flower pots, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans. Make sure rain gutters are clear of debris. Throw out old tires and other items that could collect water.
- Avoid areas where mosquitoes are likely to be, such as wooded areas or swampy land.
Global civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, whose legacy is ending South African apartheid, has died.
The case of a man accused of the involuntary manslaughter of three children who died in a February apartment fire is ready to go to a jury.
A Grand Rapids man has been arrested in connection to the case of a Jenison teen who was missing.