Health department: West Nile confirmed in 3 Michigan birds

West Nile virus confirmed in 3 birds

LANSING, MICH. - The first confirmed 2017 West Nile virus activity in Michigan has been confirmed in three birds across the state. 

The virus was found in one turkey in Barry County and two crows -- one from Kalamazoo County and the other from Saginaw County.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reminds residents that the best way to prevent West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses to is prevent mosquito bites. Those who work or enjoy spending time outdoor are at increased risk for contracting West Nile through mosquito bites. Adults 50 years old and older have the highest risk of severe illness from West Nile.

►Related: What's bugging you? Tips to prevent and treat bug bites

“Everyone older than six months of age should use repellent outdoors,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS. “It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus.”

Last year, there were 43 serious illnesses and three deaths related to West Nile virus in Michigan. Nationally, there were 2,038 human cases of the virus and 94 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include high fever, confusion, muscle weakness and sever headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses like meningitis and encephalitis. 

Mosquitos that transmit West Nile virus may breed near people's home where there is standing water, such as storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds and unused pools. They will readily come inside to bite if windows and door screens are not covered. And MDHHS says that as temperatures rise, mosquitoes and the virus develop more quickly. 

►More: Emerging Disease Issues -- West Nile virus

The three birds who tested positive for West Nile virus were either found sick or dead. Birds carry the disease in their blood and mosquitoes become infected when they bite an infected bird. Most birds don't show symptoms, MDHHS says, but certain birds like crows, blue jays and ravens, are more sensitive and more likely to become sick if infected. 

"As with many wildlife diseases, vigilant observation and reporting from the public are critical in helping health and wildlife experts better understand and contain the transmission of West Nile Virus," said Dr. Kelly Straka, state wildlife veterinarian. "We ask residents to contact us if they find sick or dead crows, blackbirds, owls or hawks, or any other bird exhibiting signs of illness."

For information about West Nile virus activity in Michigan and to report sick or dead birds, visit www.michigan.gov/westnile. More information about how West Nile affects humans, visit www.cdc.gov/westnile.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

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