2 Donors Test Positive For Deadly African Blood Virus

The leading cause of mosquito-borne illness in the United States

Sept. 5, 2019

Detroit Free Press – Two Detroit-area blood donors have tested positive for the West Nile virus, and a third is suspected to have the virus, Michigan health officials said Thursday.

The American Red Cross consistently tests blood donations for a wide variety of infectious diseases, including mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus.

West Nile produces no symptoms at all in 70% to 80% of people who contract it, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

About 1 in 5 people will develop mild symptoms, such as a fever with headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.

Severe neurological illnesses, such as encephalitis or meningitis, occur in less than 1% of people with West Nile virus.

Symptoms of neurological involvement can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.

People older than 50 are more likely to develop the more severe symptoms from the virus, as are people with medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants.

About 10% of people who develop neurological symptoms from West Nile virus will die, the MDHHS reports.

The virus first appeared in Michigan in 2002, and the state has seen outbreaks of West Nile every summer since then.

It is now the leading cause of mosquito-borne illness in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2018, West Nile virus sickened 102 Michigan residents and two visitors; nine people died.

It was the biggest outbreak since 2012, when there were 202 cases in Michigan and 17 deaths, according to the MDHHS.

The metro Detroit area plus Kent County in western Michigan have historically seen the most West Nile virus activity in the state, the MDHHS reports. Read more. 

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