Prevent West Nile Virus by Taking Protective Measures Against Mosquitoes
Local cases of West Nile Virus in animals serves as a reminder to continue preventative measures
PORT HOPE, ON (August 21, 2023) – The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit) is reminding residents to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes as positive cases of West Nile virus (WNv) appear in animals within the district area.
On June 27, 2023, Public Health Ontario (PHO) confirmed that a crow in Campbellford, Ontario tested positive for WNv. More recently, on August 15, 2023, the HKPR District Health Unit received a notification from PHO that a six-year-old, unvaccinated horse with no travel history tested positive for WNv in the City of Kawartha Lakes, after suddenly passing away. It is unknown at this time whether the horse died from WNv or another cause.
Mosquitoes become infected with WNv as they feed on infected wild birds and can spread the virus by biting humans and other mammals. Most people (70-80 per cent) infected with WNv have no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms that last for few days. Mild symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches skin rash on trunk of body and swollen lymph glands within 2-15 days of a bite from an infected mosquito.
“Although the risk of a person becoming infected is quite low, we want to remind residents that mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus are present throughout Ontario.” said Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health with the HKPR District Health Unit.” Residents should take precautions to avoid being bitten and to reduce the population of mosquitoes on their property. When used as directed, insect repellents with deet are a great way to protect yourself and your family from being bitten by mosquitoes.”
A small percentage of people (less than 1 per cent) may develop severe symptoms and health impacts that may affect the central nervous system. Severe symptoms may include severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, difficulty swallowing, confusion and lack of coordination or paralysis and can lead to severe neurological complications. Anyone with severe symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Reduce your Risk and Potential Exposure to West Nile Virus
It is important to be aware of the risk and take preventative measures to combat the spread of WNv. The HKPR District Health Unit is recommending the following guidelines:
- Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds: Remove standing water from outdoor containers, such as flowerpots, birdbaths, and gutters. Mosquitoes require stagnant water to breed, and eliminating these sources can significantly reduce their population.
- Use protective measures: Wear long sleeves shirts and pants. Apply mosquito repellents when spending time outdoors, particularly during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Install window and door screens: Ensure windows and doors have properly fitted screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
- Horse owners should remain vigilant: Monitor horse(s) for unusual behaviours or symptoms and contact their veterinarian for information about approved WNV equine vaccines available and to receive recommendations on a disease prevention program.
- The HKPR District Health Unit conducts weekly mosquito surveillance by setting up mosquito traps from June to September. Mosquitoes within the traps are sent to a laboratory for identification and are tested for WNv and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) which is another infection spread by mosquitoes that is sometimes found in Ontario. Currently, there are 15 surveillance traps located throughout Haliburton County, City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County.
- “Although there have been no positive mosquito pools detected this year in the locations monitored, it does not mean that infected mosquitoes are not present in our area,” said Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Services with the HKPR District Health Unit. “We remain vigilant in our efforts to continue to monitor the mosquito population by relocating trapes to area where the virus has been identified in other animals and education the public on preventative measures.”
Call the HKPR District Health Unit’s Environmental Services Department at 1-866-888-4577 x 5002 or visit www.hkpr.on.ca/WNv.
Ashley Beaulac, Manager of Communication Services, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577 ext. 1212, email@example.com or Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577 ext. 2222.
About the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit provides important public health programs and services to residents in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Our dedicated team of public health professionals, led by our Medical Officer of Health, promote healthy living, protect against disease, and prevent illness and injury. We work with health care providers and community partners to address emerging health issues, service gaps and social inequities to support residents in being well and reaching their full potential. Our values of trust, engagement, accountability, and leadership guide what we do every day. Learn more at www.hkpr.on.ca.