West Nile Virus: Rare but serious

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) confirmed 8 human cases of “West Nile Virus” so far this year.

Five in Wayne County, including one death and one case each in Berrien, Kent and Oakland counties.

Health officials say while mosquitoes can bite at any time, the most active part of the day for them is dusk and dawn. However, health experts 6 News spoke to say the chance of getting infected with “West Nile Virus” is slim.

“It’s still very rare, it’s still very uncommon,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

Vail says most people who become infected with the neurological disease will not even develop any symptoms of the illness, but those who do will experience…

“Basically mild, flu like symptoms…muscle aches, fever,” Vail stated.

MDHHS says about one in five infected people will experience those symptoms and about one in 150 get severely ill.

Al Walczak of Grand Rapids is one of those rare cases.

“It just felt like I was losing things…you know I was losing strength, losing balance, losing coordination,” said Walczak.

After spending two weeks in the I.C.U. last summer hooked up to a ventilator and feeding tube, blood and spinal fluid tests revealed that Walczak was infected with “West Nile Virus.”

“I remember my knees buckling because I knew there was no known cure for this,” said Joy Walczak; Al’s wife.

But situations like Walczak’s are extremely uncommon and while chances of this happening to you is rare, Vail says it’s not a bad idea to take steps to protect yourself.

“Use mosquito repellants that are effective at preventing these types of mosquitoes…so mosquito repellants with Deet are effective, also Picaridan,” Vail stated. 

Vail also recommends wearing clothes that cover your skin. She also wants people to keep this in mind:

“The vast majority of people will be just fine. Most people will have no symptoms whatsoever, most people will get flu like symptoms that won’t even cause them to go to the doctor,” said Vail.

Vail says this virus is an endemic in the United States now but as mentioned, it’s not something people should stress about. However, if you experience any of the symptoms 6 News just told you about, call your doctor immediately.

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