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Human cases of West Nile virus identified in Simcoe Muskoka

Aug 30, 2017
SIMCOE MUSKOKA – The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is advising the public to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites, after recent laboratory results show two probable human cases of West Nile virus illness; one with likely acquisition in New Tecumseth.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA – The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is advising the public to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites, after recent laboratory results show two probable human cases of West Nile virus illness; one with likely acquisition in New Tecumseth.

The results of further tests are pending before the cases can be confirmed as West Nile virus illness. In addition, mosquitoes from a trap located in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury tested positive for the virus this week.

“People may feel, with the end of summer approaching, that the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes is reduced,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “However, late summer and early fall is the time when the risk of acquiring West Nile virus from a bite actually increases. As long as mosquitoes continue to be active, we need to take precautions to protect ourselves from the virus.”

Wet, mild weather this summer has resulted in substantially larger mosquito numbers across the province. Locally, the health unit’s surveillance program has shown that West Nile virus activity remains within local and historical norms.

The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury has historically been identified as an area with increased risk for the virus. As a result, the municipality has been larviciding storm water catch basins for many years to reduce mosquito populations and provide extra protection for the public.

To stay safe, the health unit recommends the following personal protection measures:

  • Use an approved insect repellent and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing, covering arms and legs in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Try to stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active (dusk to dawn).
  • Mosquito proof your home by removing standing water around your property and ensure screens are free from breaks or rips.

The majority of people infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms and most of those who do will experience mild illness which may include: fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting or rashes on the chest, stomach or back.

Less than one per cent of those infected with West Nile virus will experience serious symptoms, which may include: high fever, severe headache, muscle weakness, stiff neck or confusion. However, in rare instances, the virus can cause meningitis, encephalitis or death. Those at greatest risk of severe illness are people over the age of 50 and individuals with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases. The health unit encourages the public to seek medical attention if they are experiencing any symptoms related to West Nile virus.

“Past surveillance for West Nile virus in our region has shown that the virus is established within Simcoe Muskoka and that we need to be aware,” said Dr. Gardner. “The best defence against the virus is personal protection.”

For more information about West Nile virus and protecting yourself from mosquito bites, call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or connect with the health unit on Facebook and Twitter, or visit simcoemuskokahealth.org.   

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