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Health Unit detects West Nile virus in our area

SIMCOE, ON, AUG. 20, 2007 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has detected West Nile virus in our area.

“West Nile virus was found in one of our mosquito traps in Jarvis,” said Public Health Inspector Gary Nedlkou.

The Health Unit monitors 18 mosquito traps weekly throughout Haldimand and Norfolk counties. This is the first positive test result from a mosquito.

To date, there have been no cases of infection reported in humans or dead birds in either county. 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. Discovery of the virus in dead birds can be one of the earliest signs of the disease in an area, so the Health Unit is asking local residents to continue reporting all sightings of dead crows, ravens and blue and grey jays.

The Health Unit, in conjunction with a licensed environmental company, continues to larvicide approximately 6,500 catch basins to eradicate mosquito populations in these likely breeding sites. Locations in the Jarvis area are receiving extra larviciding treatment.

People should protect themselves from the disease by using insect repellent with deet, and wearing light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and pants, particularly at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

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.
  • Remove items such as old tires and buckets that hold standing water.

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.

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 people are urged to 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, phone the Health Unit or visit its website at

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