Lorraine & Walt Gutowski Sr. (Courtesy Gutowski family)
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Grand Rapids City Commissioner Walt Gutowski says it was an outdoor insect carrying the West Nile virus that led to his mother's death. Lorraine Gutowski, 87, became sick earlier this month and went in the hospital on August 20 for treatment of flu-like symptoms.
She suffered a heart attack while doctors were testing her for the virus.
Commissioner Gutowski now hopes what happened to his mother will serve as a warning for people in West Michigan.
"If your loved ones -- be it young or elderly -- are experiencing flu-like symptoms and they've been outdoors, please don't just assume it's the flu and get them to the doctor."
Lorraine Gutowski's death is the first linked to West Nile in Kent County. It's also the fifth West Nile death statewide. Those deaths have been among the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
The state estimates there are 80 confirmed cases in Michigan, 23 in Kent County. Most of the cases are in urban areas, like Detroit and Grand Rapids. Older neighborhoods have stormwater catch basins where water collects and where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Grand Rapids workers are putting poison to kill the mosquito eggs.
To avoid mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, health officials say avoid going out at dawn or dusk when the insects are most active. If you do go out, wear an insect repellant containing the chemical Deet and be sure to spray your skin and clothing. Also, get rid of any sources of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.