West Nile virus bears watching in the U.P.

It seems there is a never-ending threat to community health, whether it be major or minor. Any threat is bad, though, so people are justified in learning more about the fact that two hawks from Marquette County have tested positive for West Niles Virus.

The Marquette County Health Department announced the findings on Monday, soon after it learned of them.

The MCHD stressed that the presence of WNV in wild bird populations strongly indicates that Marquette County and Upper Peninsula mosquitoes carry WNV.

That means people need to protective themselves from mosquito bites because WNV is much more than a scratchy bump on arm. Symptoms of WNV occur three to 15 days after becoming infected from a mosquito bite and include fever, headache, body aches and sometimes skin rashes and/or swollen glands. The virus also can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage.

The MCHD urges people who exhibit symptoms to call their health care provider, although being proactive is a particularly good idea. It provided these tips to protect against mosquito bites:

≤ Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product, to exposed skin or clothing, and always following the manufacturer’s directions for use.

≤ Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.

≤ Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.

≤ Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes might lay eggs.

≤ Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

The state of Michigan has more information on WNV at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/home/west-nile. Here you can keep track of the current WNV outbreak status and learn about diagnosis, testing and treatment, among other topics.

According to the website, WNV can affect anyone, but people over age 60 are more likely to get the severe form of WNV illness.

We know that COVID-19 and other diseases still are out there, but we urge people to take preventive measures to guard against WNV.


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