West Nile Virus Surveillance Begins – Health Unit Reminds Residents to Protect Themselves from Mosquitoes

Summer is here and the Health Unit is once again reminding residents about the dangers of West Nile virus (WNV).

What is West Nile Virus?
WNV is a disease that is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Evidence shows that many people infected with West Nile virus will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, people with weaker immune systems and people with chronic diseases are at greater risk for serious health effects. Over the last several years, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been found in Perth County. Since 2010, there have been fewer than five cases of WNV human infection reported in Perth County.
Clean Up Standing Water
People can stop mosquitoes from breeding by getting rid of standing water around their home, farm and workplace at least once a week. “Objects that collect water, like birdbaths, children’s toys, pool covers and tires, are perfect mosquito breeding grounds,” says Stephanie Carlisle, Public Health Inspector.
Adult mosquitoes also like to rest in dense shrubbery. Keep bushes and shrubs clear of overgrowth and debris, and keep compost piles turned on a regular basis.
Protect yourself from Mosquito Bites
The Health Unit also recommends that people protect themselves from mosquito bites by:
Using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin on clothing and exposed skin Icaridin is a similar product to DEET and was registered in 2012 by Health Canada as a safe and effective insect repellent. Always read and follow label directions
Covering up with light-coloured clothes, long sleeves and pants when outdoors or while in areas where mosquito activity is high
Taking extra protection measures at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
PDHU West Nile virus (WNV) Prevention Plan
The Health Unit conducts larviciding and mosquito trapping and testing to track the virus in Perth County and help reduce the human health risk.
Catch basin larviciding, which helps control mosquito larvae, will take place in July and August in Stratford, Listowel, Mitchell and St. Marys.
“Catch basins are a primary breeding area for mosquitoes that carry the virus,” says Carlisle. “Larval control measures help stop young mosquitoes from growing into adult mosquitoes. It’s the adult mosquitoes that can transmit the virus to humans.”
The Health Unit is also trapping adult mosquitoes. Traps are hung at specific spots across Perth County. The mosquitoes that are caught are sent for testing. No adult mosquitoes have tested positive for WNV in Perth County yet this year.
This year, the majority of mosquitoes captured in Ontario are not major carriers of WNV but can be a biting nuisance. The mosquitoes that can carry WNV – Culex pipiens/restuans – have been captured only in low numbers across the province.