County confirms first case of West Nile


The Kent County Health Department uses traps to catch and test mosquitoes for the West Nile Virus. Courtesy KCHD

The summer’s first case of West Nile virus has shown up in West Michigan.

The Kent County Health Department has confirmed the first non-human positive test of the West Nile virus was discovered during a massive mosquito surveillance project conducted by the environmental health division.

The project

The first non-human positive case was discovered in the 49504 ZIP code in the city of Grand Rapids from a pool of tested mosquitoes collected between July 28 and July 30, according to KCHD.

KCHD has been testing mosquitoes since early June from 11 different traps, known as Gravid traps, which were placed strategically throughout the county. Gravid traps lure pregnant female mosquitoes and each week the trapped insects are returned to the health department for testing and results are recorded along with geographic information, according to a press release from the county.

The traps were placed in four different ZIP codes throughout Kent County: 49503, 49504, 49507 and 49519. Those locations have proven to be “hotspots” for the West Nile virus in the past.

The impact

Adam London, administrative health officer at KCHD, said finding the positive sample is significant because it is the first alert to the presence of West Nile as it begins to surface during this time of year.

“The fact that we have found West Nile in only one area does not mean that it is confined to that ZIP code,” said London. “We expect West Nile to be present to some degree until the first frost. We want people to be aware that they can greatly reduce their own risks by taking some simple precautions.”

The West Nile virus was first detected in the state of Michigan in 2001 and since then more than 1,100 individuals have been infected with the illness. More than 90 deaths have been attributed to the virus. Kent County had the second highest number of West Nile cases in the state in both 2001 and 2012, according to the press release.

KCHD has contacted the city of Grand Rapids’ Department of Environment Services in response to the finding, and the surveillance project conducted by the environmental health division at KCHD will continue throughout the summer until Labor Day.

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