West Nile Virus activity increases in Saginaw County

SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) - (08/22/18) - A potentially dangerous disease is on the rise in Saginaw County.

The Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission reports 23 corvid birds have tested positive for the West Nile Virus, as well as two mosquitoes.

Activity has doubled since the beginning of August.

SCMAC Director William Stanuszek said the mosquitoes which can carry the virus aren't ones you'd typically even notice. "Disease carrying mosquitoes aren't the aggressive ones that drive you in from the deck, they're more of a soft-biter, there's not a lot of them. But if they're infected and bite you, that's when you know, you can become sick," he said.

So while our hot, dry summer has kept the nusiance mosquitoes from bugging us too much, it's been the perfect storm for the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Mosquito control worekrs are fighting back by treating habitats were mosquito larvae are found, including ponds.

They're also spraying at night to knock down the potentially disease-infected adult mosquitoes.

But they're also asking community members to help out.

"Wear repellant, get rid of those containers in your backyard, make sure you're not letting mosquitoes into your house, check your screens. And make sure the doors closing behind you, get after the kids a bit on that. And just take precautions, if you can do things earlier in the day," Stanuszek said.

There are not any reports of human West Nile Virus cases in Saginaw County.

We've included the news release from SCMAC for more information:

Routine mosquito-borne disease surveillance conducted by the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission (SCMAC) has detected evidence of an increase in West Nile virus (WNV) activity in portions of Saginaw County. The mosquito-borne virus activity found in corvid birds (crows and blue jays) has doubled since the beginning of August. To date, a total of 23 dead corvids, as well as 2 mosquito samples have tested positive for the virus this season in Saginaw County. Surveillance is on-going and more positives are expected to be found. Recent detections have been associated with the Saginaw Metro Area. SCMAC surveillance has detected the virus from the following Saginaw County areas: Albee, Birch Run, Carrollton, Frankenmuth, Kochville, Maple Grove, Richland, Saginaw, and Swan Creek Townships, as well as the City of Saginaw.

SCMAC is requesting that residents check their yards for mosquito breeding and eliminate backyard mosquito habitat. The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:

• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.

• When outdoors use EPA-registered insect repellents such as those that contain DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin. Use as directed and consult a physician before using repellents on infants. Also consider wearing shoes and socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts.

• Keep mosquitoes out of your home. Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.

• Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, neglected swimming pools, wading pools, old tires, and all other objects that hold water. Contact SCMAC to report standing water in ditches, flooded yards, fields, or similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

West Nile virus is found annually in certain mosquito and bird populations. Detections of the virus in birds and mosquitoes are an indicator of potential risk to people later in the summer. West Nile in people usually occurs in August and September in Michigan. As of August 21, 2018, Michigan has record of two human asymptomatic infections reported through blood donor screening.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by first feeding on an infected bird. Most people who contract the virus have no symptoms of illness, but some may become ill 3 to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop fever with other symptoms such as headache and body aches. About 1 in 150 people suffer serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, which may result in death. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

The mosquitoes associated with transmitting WNV are Culex mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are not a significant nuisance to people as they prefer to bite birds. They are responsible for transmitting the virus in local bird populations, often amplifying the amount of WNV in an area resulting in an increase of risk to people. Culex mosquitoes flourish during hot and dry periods, unlike nuisance mosquitoes which increase following substantial rainfall events. Culex mosquitoes prefer container habitats found around the home such as buckets, tarps, neglected pools, and tires.

SCMAC is responding to WNV activity through the following efforts:

• Treating breeding habitats used by mosquitoes responsible for WNV transmission; habitats include, but are not limited to, catch basins, tires, and neglected swimming pools.

• Conducting yard surveys in neighborhoods to educate homeowners and eliminate mosquito breeding habitat commonly found around the yard, such as tarps, buckets, wading pools, toys, bird baths, and any containers that hold water.

• Community truck-mounted spraying in response to mosquito-borne disease activity and/or mosquito nuisance activity.

• Areas with higher than normal levels of WNV activity receive increased control efforts to reduce adult and larval mosquito populations.

• Continual disease surveillance, noting increases in mosquito-borne disease activity through testing dead corvids and adult mosquito collections.

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