STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — A Montcalm County woman is believed to be the first person in Michigan to die from West Nile virus this year.
Health officials are still waiting on the victim’s official cause of death, but all indications are that she died from complications due to the virus.
The Mid-Michigan District Health Department is not releasing the woman’s name. Spokeswoman Leslie Kinnee said the victim was in her 60s.
Kinnee said the victim is likely one of the cases reported by 24 Hour News 8 in August. She said the woman was eventually hospitalized and died last week.
“We definitely don’t want people to be paranoid about West Nile virus, but we do want them to just be aware that it’s very real and it’s out there,” Kinnee told 24 Hour News 8.
A death due to West Nile virus, which is spread by infected mosquitoes, is incredibly rare. Most people who contract the virus do not develop any symptoms. Only 20 percent suffer mild illness with fever and about 1 in 150 people become severely ill, suffering from neurological infections.
“It’s a low number of people who become ill, but it does happen. Obviously this case tells us that’s true. So we really just want people to be careful and take precautions,” Kinnee said.
Though temperatures are dropping, Kinnee said mosquitoes will likely linger until the first hard frost. She suggested wearing bug spray and protective clothing and taking care of any standing water.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there have been 38 human West Nile cases in the state as of Oct. 16. In 2016, there were 43 cases, including three deaths.
Mild West Nile symptoms may include headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Severe symptoms of West Nile virus are associated with encephalitis or meningitis, and may include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis.