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West Nile virus confirmed in Haldimand

SIMCOE, AUGUST 20, 2013 – A mosquito pool in Caledonia has tested positive for West Nile virus.

Officials with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit say the positive test serves as an indication that the virus is once again present in the region, and people should take extra precautions to protect themselves.

“Although there have been no confirmed human cases in the area yet this year, we now know that West Nile is here, and a positive pool is a good reminder to protect you and your family from mosquito bites when outdoors,” said Sandy Stevens, Program Manager for the Health Unit’s Environmental Health Team.

Stevens stressed that Caledonia residents aren’t at higher risk than nearby areas — positive mosquito pools have been found throughout Southern Ontario, including in nearby municipalities such as Hamilton, Niagara, Halton and Waterloo — and everyone should take precautions.

Mosquitos are regularly trapped and tested at eight locations across Haldimand and Norfolk Counties, providing the Health Unit with data about the presence, and prevalence, of the virus in the area.

While this is the first pool to test positive in Haldimand or Norfolk, a total of 65 mosquito pools have tested positive in Ontario so far this summer.

“West Nile virus activity usually peaks in late summer, with cases being reported into the autumn months,” explained Stevens. “That being said, the virus has been considered endemic in Ontario for a number of years, and the public should always be taking precautions to protect themselves from the virus.”

Last year saw Ontario suffer its worst year for the illness since 2002. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 464 positive mosquito pools were reported across the province between July and October of 2012. Five human cases of West Nile virus were reported locally last year, with a horse in the Fisherville area also dying as a result of a West Nile infection.

The virus is spread to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms are mild or non-existent in most cases, with approximately 80% of human cases showing no obvious symptoms. Approximately 19% of cases will experience fever, headache, body aches and fatigue and less than 1% of human cases will develop severe illness such as inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which can be fatal. Infants, elderly people and those with weak immune systems are at a particularly high risk of serious illness if they become infected with the virus.

Public health officials are encouraging homeowners to drain standing water around their property to help reduce mosquito breeding grounds. Pool covers, garbage cans, wheelbarrows and any other items that collect water are all potential breeding sites.
To reduce the risk of mosquito bites, public health also recommends limiting time spent outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, using an insect repellent with DEET, and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants for protection.

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Media Contact:
Sandy Stevens
Program Manager, Environmental Health Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3216 at either 519-426-6170 or 905.318.6623
[email protected]