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News Release

Health Department begins 2014 West Nile virus surveillance activities

WHITBY, ON May 30, 2014 - Durham Region Health Department has started West Nile virus (WNV) surveillance activities for the 2014 season. WNV is a mosquito-borne disease that is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on the blood of a bird that carries the virus. The disease is not passed from person to person or from bird to person.

As part of its monitoring activities, the Health Department uses indicators such as adult and larval mosquito surveillance to determine the risk of WNV for area residents.

WNV has been found in birds, mosquitoes, horses and humans in Ontario since 2001. Since that time, evidence of the virus has fluctuated each year, with more activity reported in 2012 than in previous years. In 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care reported 53 confirmed human cases of the virus in Ontario as, compared to 259 in 2012.  Durham Region had three reported human cases of WNV during 2013, as compared to seven in 2012. In addition, 15 West Nile virus positive adult mosquito pools were identified in the Region.

“Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water,” explained Ross MacEachern, Manager, Environmental Health with the Health Department. “Area residents are reminded to remove or cover any standing water around their homes to help reduce the development of mosquito larvae.”

In addition, the Health Department also recommends the following steps to help minimize potential breeding sites for mosquitoes:

  • Chlorinate rain barrels or cover them with mosquito screening.
  • Drain water from areas such as pools and chair covers, and containers such as ceramic pots, wading pools, bird baths, planters, etc.
  • Check that roof gutters are clear and drain properly.
  • Clean and properly maintain swimming pools and outdoor hot tubs.
  • Remove all unused tires from your property.
  • Ensure that drainage ditches are not backed up.

To help reduce the possibility of being exposed to WNV, the Health Department also encourages residents to take the following precautions:

  • Wear shoes, socks and light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and full-length pants when outside, especially during evening, night time or dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin, following Health Canada’s safety tips on using personal insect repellents. More information on using insect repellents containing DEET can be found in Health Canada’s pamphlet “Safety Tips on Using Personal Insect Repellent”.
  • Ensure doors and windows have screens that are tight-fitting and in good repair. Keep grass, shrubs and hedges trimmed
  • Turn over compost piles regularly

Throughout the summer, the Health Department will conduct a number of activities to monitor WNV concerns across the Region, including implementing an adult mosquito-trapping program, a larval mosquito surveillance program and a larviciding program. For more information on WNV and the Health Department’s surveillance activities, please call the Health Department’s Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613.

 

Media inquiries:
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF DURHAM
Glendene Collins - Health Department 905-668-7711, ext. 2999