Two human cases of West Nile virus confirmed in Peterborough region

Two human cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed by Peterborough and area health units. CHEX News

Health officials have confirmed two human cases of West Nile virus this year in the Peterborough area.

Peterborough Public Health confirmed one case was acquired locally.

“We encourage residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of West Nile virus in our area,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, PPH’s Medical Officer of Health.

“The wet summer is giving mosquitoes more places to breed, so we urge residents to keep their properties clean of standing water and brush, and protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The Haliburton-Kawartha-Pine Ridge District Health Unit also confirmed a resident within its region (Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes) has been infected with the West Nile virus. That individual was not hospitalized and is currently recovering.

It’s HKPRD’s first human case of West Nile virus since 2012.

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“The discovery of a human case of West Nile virus in our region is no surprise, given the wet weather this spring and summer that have created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes that can spread illness,” said Marianne Rock, HKPR Health Unit’s Communicable Disease Control, Epidemiology and Evaluation manager.

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“Even though the cold nights and cooler fall days will eventually kill mosquitoes, it’s obvious they are still active and pose a health risk. That’s why it is very important for people to continue taking precautions and fighting the bite of mosquitoes that can spread West Nile virus.”

According to Public Health Ontario’s most recent West Nile virus surveillance data, as of Aug. 12, there have been eight reported (probable or confirmed) human cases of West Nile virus in the province this year.

Earlier this summer, the HKPRD Health Unit detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes that were trapped in Haliburton County on July 6.

“Don’t be complacent, because wherever you live, it’s important to reduce your risk of mosquitoes that can spread illness,” Rock said.

West Nile virus is mainly spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. While most people who get West Nile virus do not experience any symptoms, a small number of individuals may develop flu-like symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, muscle weakness and stiff neck.

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Symptoms usually develop two to 14 days after receiving a bite from an infected mosquito. In a few cases, people may develop more serious symptoms, including confusion, tremors and sudden sensitivity to light.

Anyone who suspects they have West Nile virus should seek medical attention.

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To reduce the risk of West Nile virus, the health units remind people to:

• Cover up when outside by wearing light-coloured clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, hats and socks, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

• Applying insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin is also recommended to limit exposure to mosquitoes.

• Clean up and eliminate mosquito breeding areas by removing standing water around homes, cottages or campsites, including in bird baths, old tires and unused containers like barrels.

• Keep bushes and shrubs clear of overgrowth and debris, and turn over compost piles on a regular basis.

• People are also advised to keep homes and businesses ‘bug tight’ by ensuring windows and door screens fit tightly and do not have holes.

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