As people head out for the Labor Day holiday weekend, Genesee County residents are urged to take precautions against mosquito bites while enjoying the outdoors. By just taking a few simple steps, residents can protect themselves and their families from pesky mosquito bites and potentially contacting West Nile Virus.

In the second week of August, Michigan health officials reported the first West Nile Virus death of the year. Since then, two additional deaths have been confirmed. WNV cases are on the rise both nationally and in Michigan, where we’ve seen the highest number of cases at this point in the season since 2002, the year West Nile first appeared in Michigan.

Residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid WNV:

  • Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing, especially during peak mosquito activity periods such as dusk and dawn.
  • Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

The unusually hot and dry summer has favored the mosquitoes that transmit WNV. These same conditions have led to a reduction in the number of "nuisance" mosquitoes which are more abundant during wet summers. WNV carrying mosquitoes breed in small collections of stagnant water, are common around people's homes and often bite people indoors. While few mosquitoes may be noticed outdoors, those that are present and biting are likely to be the type that potentially carry WNV.

Most people bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito show no symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure. WNV can cause serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis and can have long-term health consequences. People 50 and older as well as people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to severe WNV disease symptoms.

When you’re running out the door to enjoy the weather, remember to grab not only your sunscreen, but your insect repellent too. Simple steps can protect your family’s health. For more information and surveillance activity updates about WNV, visit