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News Release

Health Department begins 2012 West Nile virus surveillance activities

WHITBY, ON  May 16, 2012 - Durham Region Health Department has started surveillance activities for the 2012 West Nile virus (WNV) 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 the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) discontinued its dead bird surveillance program in 2009, the Health Department no longer collects and submits birds for testing. However, the Health Department will continue to use other 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 2011 than in previous years. In 2011, the MOHLTC reported 71 confirmed human cases of the virus in Ontario, two of which were confirmed in Durham Region. In addition, eight positive mosquito pools were identified in the Region.

To help reduce the number of mosquito larvae in stagnant water around your home, residents are encouraged to:

  • Ensure doors and windows have screens that are tight fitting and in good repair.
  • Remove standing water from around your home where mosquitoes could lay their eggs.
  • 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 maintain swimming pools and outdoor hot tubs.
  • Keep grass, shrubs or hedges trimmed regularly.
  • Do not wash grass clippings, raked leaves or other organic material into roadside catch basins.
  • Turn over compost piles frequently.
  • Remove all unused tires from your property.
  • Ensure that drainage ditches are not clogged.

The Health Department also recommends that residents take the following precautions to help reduce the possibility of being exposed to WNV:

  • 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”.

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, ext. 2188.

 

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