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News Release

Durham Region reports first human cases of West Nile virus this season

WHITBY, ON  September 7, 2011 - Durham Region Health Department has received confirmation of two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) illness. These cases, one male and one female both in their 50s, are the first human cases of WNV reported in Durham Region this year.

The number of human cases of WNV illness has been declining across Ontario since 2002. There has never been a death related to the virus reported in Durham Region.

“While the overall risk of becoming infected with WNV is low, it’s still important for everyone to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” explained Laura Freeland, Manager, Environmental Health with Durham Region Health Department. “Although the nights are now several degrees cooler, mosquitoes still remain quite active.”

WNV illness 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. Most people who contract the virus will experience mild illness including fever, headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting and rash on the chest, stomach or back. More serious symptoms can include muscle weakness, stiff neck, confusion, tremors, numbness and sudden sensitivity to light. Symptoms usually develop between three and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

To minimize the risk of mosquito bites and the possibility of being infected with WNV, the Health Department recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Wear shoes, socks and light-coloured clothing, including long sleeve tops and full-length pants, when outside especially during evening, nighttime 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” at
  • Ensure that window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.

As part of its ongoing WNV surveillance program, the Health Department has placed a number of mosquito traps throughout the Region. Mosquitoes caught in these traps are collected and tested weekly for the virus. Mosquitoes carrying the virus have been found in six traps so far this summer, which is up from one batch of positive mosquitoes detected in 2010. For more information on WNV, please call the Health Department’s Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613, ext. 2188.

Media inquiries:
Glendene Collins - Health Department 905-668-7711, ext. 2999