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Haldimand and Norfolk still clear of West Nile virus

SIMCOE, ON, AUG. 3, 2007 – We’re well into the summer season now and there is still no sign of West Nile virus appearing in Haldimand or Norfolk counties.

“Nobody has contracted the disease in our area,” said Gary Nedlkou, a Public Health Inspector with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “None of the bird carcasses we sent for testing showed infection either.”

West Nile virus is found in wild birds, most commonly in the crow family. The disease can then be passed on to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

The Health Unit, which has tested 12 dead birds from Norfolk and four from Haldimand so far this season, is asking local residents to continue reporting dead birds.

“The public has been very helpful every summer in helping us monitor the presence of West Nile virus through the reporting of dead birds,” Nedlkou said. “The surveillance of dead birds provides the earliest possible warning sign that West Nile virus may be in our area. We are requesting the public to continue to report all sightings of dead crows, ravens and blue and grey jays.”

Four out of five people who get infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms. Of those who show symptoms, most will experience a very mild illness, including fever, headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting and a rash on the chest, stomach or back. In some people, particularly the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems, West Nile virus infection can result in serious illness. There is no specific treatment and no vaccine against West Nile virus.

To protect against West Nile virus, people should wear long sleeves and pants, particularly at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, and apply an insect repellent containing DEET. The concentration of DEET should not be greater than 30% for adults and 10% for children.

“Anyone using insect repellents, especially on children, should carefully read the directions on the label,” Nedlkou emphasized. “Health Canada warns that DEET-type repellents should not be used on children under six months of age.”

To reduce mosquito breeding areas around the home, people are urged to:

  • Change water in bird baths at least twice a week.
  • Always circulate and chlorinate pool water.
  • Drain water off pool covers.
  • Unclog gutters and drainage ditches.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.

Sightings of dead crows, ravens and jays can be reported to the Health Unit at either the Simcoe office, 519-426-6170, or the Caledonia office, 905-318-5367, during office hours. Health Unit staff will record the sighting and assess the dead bird’s condition to determine if it should be picked up and submitted to the laboratory for virus testing. Health Unit staff will not be able to pick up dead birds during the evenings or weekends.

“Although rare, West Nile Virus can be transferred to humans through the handling of dead bird carcasses, so don’t handle the dead bird with bare hands,” Nedlkou cautioned. “Use puncture-proof gloves, a heavy plastic bag or a shovel to move the body. Dead birds that are not picked up for testing can be placed in double plastic bags for landfill or buried.”

For more information on West Nile virus, you may phone the Health Unit or visit its website at www.hnhu.org.

Media Contact:
Gary Nedlkou, Public Health Inspector
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
905-318-5367 Ext. 303