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Fight the Bite of Mosquitoes to Protect Yourself from Illness

This spring’s cool, wet weather will eventually give way to warmer days and that means the return of mosquitoes.

While some people consider mosquitoes a harmless part of summer, the bite of an infected mosquito can potentially lead to a variety of serious illnesses. That’s why the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging people to “Fight the Bite” and reduce their risk of illness by removing mosquito breeding areas on their property, and taking steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites when outside.

“More than just a summertime nuisance, infected mosquitoes can carry and spread a variety of diseases that can potentially make people ill,” says Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, Medical Officer of Health for the HKPR District Health Unit. “That’s why it’s important to do what you can to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes.”

The best way to protect yourself from mosquito bites:

Clean up and remove potential mosquito breeding areas around your property:

▪ Get rid of standing water that mosquitoes need to lay their eggs. This includes pool covers, flower pots, wheelbarrows, recycling boxes, garbage cans, old tires, and wading pools.

▪ Fill in low depressions in your lawn.

▪ Cover rain barrels with a fine screen mesh. Change water in bird baths at least once a week.

▪ Clean out dense bush and shrubbery where mosquitoes can rest.

▪ Turn over your compost pile on a regular basis.

▪ Ensure window and door screens fit tightly and do not have holes.

Cover up when outside:

• Use federally-registered personal insect repellents on exposed skin, such as products containing DEET.

▪ When the weather permits, wear protective clothing outside such as long-sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, hats and socks - choose light-coloured clothing as mosquitoes tend to be attracted to darker colours.

Around the world, mosquitoes carry and spread a variety of serious illnesses. Due to the harsher Canadian climate, many of the mosquito species that carry the deadlier diseases have not been detected in Canada. West Nile virus (WNV) remains the most common mosquito-borne disease reported in the country, with 100 human cases reported in 2016.

Last summer, the first human case of mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) was suspected in Canada. This required extensive testing and the human EEEV infection was confirmed late this winter. The infected person was a resident of Ontario and has fully recovered. Human cases of EEEV are rare, and there have only been 85 cases recorded in the United States between 2004 and 2013. EEEV has been circulating in Ontario for several decades, with cases confirmed in horses for the past several years.

Like WNV, an EEEV infection can present in a variety of ways. Some people have no symptoms while others can experience fever, chills, a feeling of tiredness or weakness, muscle and joint pain that usually develop four to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms of infection can last from one to two weeks. In serious cases, EEEV can lead to encephalitis with fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and in extreme cases, coma. EEEV cannot be transmitted from person-to-person.

“The risk of being infected with West Nile virus is low but there is still a risk,” says Dr. Noseworthy. “With Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, the risk of infection is even lower than that for WNV. Doing what you can to eliminate mosquito breeding areas around your home and being sure you wear insect repellent when outside can go a long way in reducing your risk even more.”

For media inquiries, contact:

Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, Medical Officer of Health, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, 905-885-9100.

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