An 81-year-old woman in Michigan has died after contracting the West Nile virus, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed.
The unnamed woman, of Oakland County, marked the first West Nile virus death of the year in the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Tuesday, 47 U.S. states and the District of Columbia had reported the West Nile virus in people, birds or mosquitoes since Jan. 1, 2015. In people, 877 cases had been reported to the CDC, and 43 people had died, not including the latest Michigan death. Of those, 61 percent were classified as neuroinvasive disease, like meningitis or encephalitis, while 39 percent were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.
"This is a tragic reminder of how severe West Nile virus can be, especially for adults over 50 who are at greater risk for severe illness," George Miller, director of Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services, told Fox 2 Detroit. "We strongly encourage residents to protect themselves and family members from mosquitoes, even as we enter the fall season."
Most people get infected with the West Nile virus by being bitten by an infected mosquito. According to the CDC, people over age 60 and individuals who are immunosuppressed are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. There is no treatment for West Nile virus beyond over-the-counter pain relievers, nor is there a vaccine to prevent against infection. The CDC advises wearing insect repellents and long sleeves from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, as protective measures.