MICHIGAN — State health officials are urging residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites this season, following the detection of the year’s first mosquito-borne virus.
Mosquitoes recently collected in Bay County have tested positive for the Jamestown Canyon virus (JCV) at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) labs. The MDHHS says these are the first infected mosquito pools detected for 2022.
Experts say the best way for residents to protect themselves against JCV and other mosquito-borne illnesses, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV), is to prevent mosquito bites.
Every summer in Michigan, bites from mosquitoes carry the risk of spreading diseases to people and animals.
JCV sickened six Michiganders last year. Forty-six cases of WNV and one case of EEE were also reported last year.
Seven of the WNV cases resulted in death, according to the MDHHS.
The JCV virus is spread to people through bites from infected mosquitoes. Most cases occur from late spring through mid-fall. Illness can develop within a few days to two weeks following a bite from an infected mosquito. While most people do not become ill, initial symptoms can include fever, headache and fatigue. In rare cases, it can cause severe disease in the brain and/or spinal cord, including encephalitis and meningitis.
While the JCV is found throughout much of the U.S., cases have been increasing in the Midwest. This likely reflects increased awareness and testing, but may be because more of the virus is present in the environment.
This is the second year that the MDHHS labs are offering virus testing of mosquito pools collected by local health departments and county mosquito control programs. Testing is offered to improve detection and notification of mosquito-borne viruses.
The JCV can be spread by mosquitoes that become infected when they feed on deer or other animals that have the virus in their blood. Infected mosquitoes spread the virus to other animals or people through bites. Arboviruses, including WNV and EEE, spread when mosquitoes contract the virus from biting infected birds, then bite humans.
Residents can stay healthy by using simple, effective strategies to protect themselves and their families. The following steps are recommended to avoid mosquito-borne diseases:
- Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET or other EPA-approved products to exposed skin or clothing. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
- Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
- Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
“It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors, avoiding areas where mosquitoes are present if possible and wearing clothing to cover arms and legs to prevent bites.”
Find out more at Michigan.gov/EmergingDiseases.