West Nile Virus strikes Oakland County

Map of West Nile incidents in the USA.

Map of West Nile incidents in the USA.

Bilal Ibrahim, Staff Writer

In 2015, there have been 1,028 cases of the West Nile Virus in the USA. One recent case was alarmingly close to us. An 81-year-old woman in Oakland County was one of the 54 deaths in America. In September, Oakland County experienced its first west Nile Death in 12 years.

Dr. Jessica Ridgway is the Assistant Professor of Medicine in the section of Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the University of Chicago. She explains how the virus is transmitted.

“It is spread by mosquitoes,” Dr. Ridgway said. “Mosquitoes become infected by West Nile when they feed on infected birds. Then they can spread the virus to people or other animals when they bite them.”

Dr. Ridgway says that this virus is rarely lethal, but sometimes can be dangerous and fatal.

“Most people who get infected with West Nile virus actually don’t have any symptoms,” Dr. Ridgway said. “Only 1 in 5 will have symptoms like a fever and headache. Less than 1 percent of patients become very seriously ill with a brain infection.”

Unfortunately, there is no current treatment for the West Nile Virus.

“People with West Nile virus infection can take medications to treat their pain, reduce their fever and relieve other symptoms,” Dr. Ridgway said.

Sophomore Bria Mattson didn’t know about the West Nile Virus death, but she isn’t worried.

“I wouldn’t be concerned because there was only one person that died because of it,” Mattson. “There’s not many people that are dying from it, so it’s not really something I’m concerned about.”


Although severe, life-threatening symptoms are rare with the West Nile, some people do experience symptoms like brain swelling.

Most people who get West Nile Virus infection don’t have any symptoms and don’t get sick,” Dr. Ridgway said. “It rarely causes a very serious infection of the brain, or even death.

Some people may be more susceptible to the west nile virus. They should take extra precautions to protect themselves.

Older individuals and those with chronic health problems are more likely to become seriously ill when they get infected.”

There are precautions that people can take to avoid getting West Nile.

“The best way for people to protect themselves is to avoid mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent and wearing long sleeves,” Dr. Ridgway said. “As the weather gets colder and there are fewer mosquitoes, the risk of West Nile will also decrease.”