West Nile Kills Michigan Woman
Despite dozens of volunteers, police and firefighters, it took a day and a half to find the body of Charles Gehringer. Video by fox47news.comvideo
An elderly woman from Washtenaw County was hospitalized with viral meningitis earlier this month and has now died from the West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus is hitting Michigan hard this year and it's setting records. There are 24 cases of the virus in the state and already one death.
"This is the worst year since 2004, and this is the most number of cases that we've seen by this time in any year that we have been recording West Nile Virus." said Erik Foster, a
medical entomologist that works for the Department of Community Health.
Most cases are reported during August and September, but this year cases began as early as July. Experts say an exceptionally hot summer meant few places with standing water meaning the birds who have the virus and the mosquito's who transmit it to humans were brought closer together.
The disease is entirely preventable and officials want people to take preventative measures so they don't get the virus.
"Keep the screens on your windows and your doors maintained so that mosquito's can't get in," said Christine Hendrickson who works for Ingham County Public Health.
Experts also recommend draining standing water, wearing insect repellent with deet and by staying inside at dawn and dusk when mosquito's are more likely to be out in high numbers.
"The mosquito's that transmit West Nile Virus, are breeding right around our homes in that stagnate water and it's not getting flushed off, by periodic heavy rains. These mosquito's thrive in these hot dry years," said Foster.
Many people don't realize they have the virus, because they never experience any symptoms, such as a fever, back pain or severe headache. Only about 20 percent of people who have the virus ever realize it or experience symptoms. Those 50 and older are more susceptible to get the virus' symptoms. The health department found that nine people in the state who gave blood had the virus and didn't realize it. Those blood donations were of course removed from the supply.
"Right now we are on par to definitely surpass last year and it really does depend on weather, what happens out there in the environment," said Foster.
Colder, rainier weather and people taking precautions will lesson the virus' impact across the state.