Residents of Kawartha Lakes and Durham Region are asked to take precautions to protect themselves, after West Nile virus (WNV) was confirmed in mosquitoes collected in Haliburton County and Oshawa.
Mosquitoes infected with WNV were confirmed to be in the Oshawa area on July 20th and a batch of mosquitoes in Haliburton tested positive for WNV on July 6th.
Both instances are this year’s first cases of WNV found in the Kawartha Lakes or Durham Region.
“With this West Nile-positive mosquito result, it’s important for area residents to take precautions, to avoid mosquito bites and remove standing water from their properties,” said Ross MacEachern, Manager, Environmental Health with the Health Department.
Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so eliminating standing water from around the house can help reduce the risk of getting WNV.
Bird baths, old tires, and unused containers, like barrels or buckets, are all sources of potential standing water. Keep bushes or shrubs clear of overgrowth and debris, turn compost piles on a regular basis, ensure window and door screens are sealed properly and do not have any holes, this will all help.
Another way to reduce the risk of contracting WNV is covering up and using insect repellent containing DEET while outdoors. It is best to wear light colored, long sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, and a hat when outside, especially between dusk and dawn, because this is when mosquitoes are the most active.
WNV is a mosquito-borne disease, spread to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on the blood of a bird carrying the virus. Although, the disease cannot be passed from person to person, or from bird to person, it can through mosquito bites.
While most people who get WNV do not experience any symptoms, a small number of individuals may develop flu-like symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, muscle weakness and stiff neck. In a few cases, people may develop more severe symptoms, including confusion, tremors and sudden sensitivity to light. People who suspect they have WNV should seek immediate medical attention.
Statistics compiled by Public Health Ontario show WNV has been detected in three batches of mosquitoes collected across the province.
To date, no human cases of WNV have been reported in Ontario this year. The confirmation of the virus comes earlier this year, as the HKPR did not see a positive mosquito pool in 2016 until late August. Last year, there were 211 positive mosquito pools and 50 human cases recorded in Ontario.
“Typically West Nile virus confirmations occur later in the summer, so this early finding confirms we always need to be vigilant when protecting ourselves from illness caused by mosquitoes, right from spring until the first heavy frost in the fall,” says Ovcharovich. “We have seen evidence of other mosquito-borne illnesses in our area as well in recent years, so it’s more important than ever to protect ourselves from the bite of mosquitoes,” he notes.
For more information on WNV, in Durham Region, please call the Health Department’s Environmental Help Line, at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613, or visit durham.ca/westnile.
For more information about WNV, in Kawartha Lakes, call the Health Unit, at 1-866-888-4577 or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.