Kent County man sickened by West Nile virus dies

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County resident has died from complications caused by the West Nile virus, the Kent County Health Department announced Monday.

Health officials say the man, who was in his 80s, had been hospitalized with the virus before he died over the weekend.

“We knew about the infection, we knew about the hospitalization, and we were just informed today [Monday] that the individual passed away,” said Kent County epidemiologist Brian Hartl.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services previously reported one death in Wayne County this summer related to West Nile. Statewide, at least 15 people have been sickened by the mosquito-borne virus: That includes one case in Allegan County, one in Berrien County and four cases, including the fatality, in Kent County.

The Allegan County Health Department said Tuesday its case involves a middle-aged woman. It said preliminary tests came back positive for West Nile and followup tests were being conducted.

The Grand Rapids man’s was the first confirmed West Nile death in Kent County since 2012 and only the eighth virus-related death ever in the county.

“Compared to years that we’ve been tracking mosquitoes, this is probably the worst year that we’ve had,” Hartl said Monday.

“We haven’t had a lot of deaths from West Nile Virus,” he added. “In 2002, when the virus emerged in the area, we had four deaths. We had one death in 2005. The two in 2012 and now the one in 2018.”

Hartl said Kent County health officials are aware of people suffering West Nile-like symptoms right now. Those individuals have been tested, but state laboratory results are pending.

“We expect some more cases to be coming,” Hartl said.

Kent County health officials earlier this month warned that West Nile virus would likely be prevalent this year, after seeing an “unusually high” number of mosquitoes test positive for the virus. MDHHS says mosquitoes from 74 pools in eight counties have tested positive for West Nile virus; the Kent County Health Department said 26 percent of the Culex mosquitoes it captured were carrying West Nile.

Additionally, 66 birds in 21 counties tested positive for the virus, according to the MDHHS.

Health officials say about 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus do not show symptoms of the illness. About one in 150 infected people becomes severely ill.

While there is no vaccine or cure for West Nile virus, the KCHD suggests taking the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Wear a mosquito repellant that contains 10 percent to 35 percent DEET.
  • Stay indoors during dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Remove standing water in your yard, which can be a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Keep your lawn and shrubs cut.
  • Wear light-colored clothing

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West Nile virus

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