West Nile virus cases confirmed in Kalamazoo and Barry counties

West Nile virus cases confirmed in Kalamazoo and Barry counties.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The West Nile virus was connected to 43 illnesses and three deaths in Michigan during 2016. The disease is off to an early start for 2017 after activity is confirmed in three counties.

Researchers at Michigan State University confirmed the state's first West Nile virus activity in Barry, Kalamazoo, and Saginaw County birds. A mild winter and a wet spring could be the culprits, but prevention is the key.

Rose Pest Solutions District Manager Bobby Ward has been in the bug business for more than 20 years. His team helps homeowners ward off insect invaders.

"The mosquito that carries West Nile virus tend to breed in water sources around homes," said Ward.

Ward says eliminating access to buckets, bird baths, ponds, and pools is the first step in stopping the bugs from breeding.

"If you have a stagnant pond, it's always good to keep those waters moving with some sort of a fountain," said Ward. "As long as there is a decent ripple in the water, it's hard for the larval stage of the mosquito to survive."

Chief Medical Executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Eden Wells said in a statement Friday, "It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus."

Wearing long sleeves and pants will limit access to your blood becoming dinner, while using an over-the-counter repellent will curb the insect's appetite altogether. Something as simple as running a few fans in the yard will fend off the itty-bitty biters.

"They're extremely weak flyers," said Ward.

As the temperatures rise, so does the chance to catch West Nile virus. Common symptoms include high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, and a severe headache.

For more information on the West Nile virus, and to report a sick or dead bird in Michigan, visit