Doctor discusses West Nile virus risk and prevention - Fox 2 News Headlines

Doctor discusses West Nile virus risk and prevention

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A second metro Detroiter has died from West Nile virus and another eighteen cases have been reported this week. That brings Michigan's total number of reported cases to 41 so far this year.

The numbers are a little frightening, so we went to Henry Ford infectious disease expert Dr. Jose Vasquez to find out how worried we need to be.

First, how is West Nile virus spread?

"The birds have the virus. The mosquito comes and bites the bird. Mosquito then picks up the virus, bites the human being, transfers the blood into the human being and that's how the virus is transmitted."

Who is most at risk?

"Everybody who's at risk for getting mosquito bites is at risk. However, the ones that have the worst types of illnesses appear to be those above the age of 50, pregnant women and then in the toddler age."

What's interesting is that most people who get West Nile never even know they had the virus. The range of symptoms go from none at all to quite severe.

"As a matter of fact, a lot of us have West Nile and have had West Nile. We won't even know we had a West Nile. We think we had a small flu bug or virus, goes away within one or two days. We have no idea. To those patients that become more severe and those patients could actually come in with paralysis. They go into coma, severe headaches, and some of those actually last and can last for many, many months."

So the big question is do we have to stay inside? What do we do to protect ourselves?

"No, absolutely we don't have to stay inside. I think most people know that the mosquitoes bite dawn and dusk. Those are the times when we have to be careful of our surroundings. We certainly should be using mosquito repellant that contains DEET in it to prevent the bites, and then other than that, long shirt sleeves and pants."

The other thing is to get rid of standing water.

You may wonder why West Nile is on the rise right now. Experts think it is due to the mild winter, the early spring and the hot summer. The fact that we haven't had much rain, you would think that would take away from the problem. It actually makes it worse because when the rain comes down, it actually disrupts all the standing water and the breeding process. So the fact that it has been dry is actually making the problem even worse.

Click here for more information on protecting yourself from West Nile virus from the CDC.

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