GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County health officials are warning people to take precautions after detecting West Nile virus in mosquitoes from five zip codes.
The Kent County Health Department says mosquitoes captured in the following zip codes tested positive for the virus, which can sicken people:
Health officials say they expect to find West Nile virus in mosquitoes every year, but the test results should serve as a warning to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
“The mosquitoes (that) tend to be in the urban areas, they’ll lay their eggs and their populations will grow because of the catch basins in the streets. So when you don’t have a lot of rain, the water sits stagnant, they’re able to breed more. But when you have a lot of rain, it flushes it out so you get less mosquito populations. We had early, wet weather here in West Michigan and now we’ve got a little drier weather, so we’re seeing the populations a little more now,” said Barbara Brown, a sanitarian with the Kent County Health Department.
About 20% of people infected with West Nile virus will notice symptoms, which typically include headache, body aches, joint pain and fatigue.
“You may have contracted the virus from mosquitoes but you don’t know because not everybody is going to get sick from the virus. It’s just certain populations that will become infected by it,” Brown said.
Small children, older adults and those with a weakened immune system are at highest risk of West Nile virus complications.
While most people sickened completely recover, in rare cases the virus will impact the central nervous system, which can lead to permanent damage and even death.
The Kent County Health Department also warned that while all cases of the more serious Eastern Equine Encephalitis have been reported in Kalamazoo and Berrien counties, it’s possible the mosquito-borne disease exists in Kent County as well.
State health officials have confirmed three cases of EEE in the southwestern counties, with two additional suspected cases and two other cases under investigation. One person in Kalamazoo County has died from EEE, which kills approximately one in three people sickened by it.
The risk of both the virus and disease dies off with the mosquitoes, which happens with the first hard frost. Until then, people are encouraged to use repellent containing 10%-35% DEET, empty out any standing water in their yards, avoid going outside at dusk and wear light-colored clothing.