GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Kent County Health Department said there are concerns the mosquito-carried West Nile virus could get out of control again, similar to the epidemic of 10 years ago.
The Kent County Health Department reported Thursday it had confirmed one case of West Nile virus and that two others were highly probable. The three cases so close together have caused concern.
In 2002, four people died from the virus in Kent County. One woman who barely survived that outbreak is still feeling the effects a decade later.
Heather Ibrahim contracted the West Nile virus in 2002.
She was in a coma for one week. She remembers seeing two dead birds in her backyard at her Grand Rapids' home. She remembers bug bites. She recalls her trip to Oregon to see her sister.
Most everything else was a blur.
Ibrahim told 24 Hour News 8 she still can't remember anything from about three weeks during her illness.
She still has subtle reminders of that time. Her left hand tremors slightly.
A couple other things have stayed the same, like her black Labrador Retriever Tanner and her job.
But much has changed. She is married now and has a new house, a husband and two children -- Luken, 5, and Ellary, 2.
Still, just a mention of the disease a decade ago brings those memories back.
"It's kind of weird because it almost makes me flashback of when it happened to me," said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim told 24 Hour News 8 she thinks most people who remember what happened in 2002 also remember to use bug spray, but she admits she hasn't had to think about it most of this summer.
"I haven't really thought about it much this year because it's been so dry," she said.
24 Hour News 8 reported in July how the dry weather has led to fewer mosquitoes.
But there has been rain in recent weeks and Jack Den Uyl from the Mosquito Squad told 24 Hour News 8 it is more than enough rain for the insects.
"All it takes is a bottle cap to have over 300 eggs of a mosquito," he said.
While he acknowledged the "tremendous, huge jumps" in West Nile cases, he told 24 Hour News 8 the risk is small. Den Uyl said August and September are the months he considers "West Nile peak season."
Even though the drought pushed back the start of the season, he said most mosquitoes will be gone after the first frost.
Measures to prevent WNV, provided by the MDCH:
- Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
- Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
- Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing, especially during peak mosquito activity periods such as dusk and dawn.
- Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
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