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BUZZ OFF MOSQUITOES

- As Official Start of Summer Vacation Arrives, Local Residents Urged to Take Precautions Against West Nile Virus -

While another school year has drawn to a close, local health officials are still asking people to keep in mind a very important lesson: fight the bite of mosquitoes.

There is no summer holiday from the risk of West Nile virus, according to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. As people spend more time outdoors at home or head out to the cottage or campground for a vacation, the Health Unit recommends people take precautions against mosquitoes that can spread West Nile virus.

“There is no good reason to be bitten by a mosquito, and that’s even more important in the summer months when we spend more time outdoors and are more exposed to bites,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit. “When we fight the bite of mosquitoes, we can reduce our risk of getting sick from West Nile.”

The Health Unit recommends that people:

  • Cover up when outside by wearing light-coloured clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, hats and socks, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Applying federally-registered insect repellent on exposed skin (such as products containing DEET) is also recommended to limit exposure to mosquitoes.
  • Clean up and remove any standing water around homes, cottages or campsites. Mosquitoes need stagnant water to lay their eggs, and even small amounts will do such as that found in bird baths, old tires and unused containers like barrels. Adult mosquitoes also like to rest in dense shrubbery, so people should keep bushes and shrubs clear of overgrowth and debris. Compost piles should be turned on a regular basis as well, and local residents are advised to make sure homes and businesses are ‘bug tight’ by ensuring windows and door screens fit tightly and do not have holes.

While most people who get West Nile virus 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, says Ovcharovich, people may develop more serious symptoms, including confusion, tremours and sudden sensitivity to light. People who suspect they have West Nile virus should seek immediate medical attention. For more information on West Nile virus, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or click here.

As in past years, the Health Unit is carrying out its West Nile virus monitoring program in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes this summer. This involves trapping and testing mosquitoes to check for the presence of West Nile virus activity in the area. In 2013, the Health Unit reported no human cases of West Nile virus in its region. The previous year, in 2012, there were two lab-confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in its region.

“It’s always difficult to predict how serious West Nile virus will be in any given year,” says Ovcharovich. “That is why it is best that people err on the side of caution by covering up and cleaning up to reduce their risk of West Nile Virus.”

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For media inquiries, contact:

Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569.

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