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News Release

Health Department begins 2016 West Nile virus surveillance activities

WHITBY, ON May 25, 2016

Durham Region Health Department has started West Nile virus (WNV) surveillance activities for the 2016 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.

WNV has been found in birds, mosquitoes, horses and humans in Ontario since 2001. In 2015, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care reported 33 confirmed human cases of the virus in Ontario, as compared to 10 in 2014. Durham Region reported two human cases of WNV during 2015, but no cases were reported in 2014. In addition, while the Health Department routinely traps adults mosquitoes as part of its surveillance activities, none of the mosquitoes trapped in 2014 and 2015 were identified as positive for West Nile virus.

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

“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.”

The Health Department recommends the following specific 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 overnight, between dusk and 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:

The Regional Municipality of Durham:

Glendene Collins – Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999

If this information is required in an accessible format, please contact the Accessibility Co-ordinator at 1-800-372-1102 extension 2009.

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For more information, please contact Health Department.