Hamilton raises West Nile virus risk assessment after first local human case discovered

Mosquito numbers have risen in Regina in recent weeks due to heavy precipitation. Global News / File

One of Hamilton’s associate medical officers has bumped up the risk level of contracting West Nile Virus (WMV) in the city from low to moderate after the first human case of the season was discovered.

Public health didn’t release any specifics on the individual case, but is suggesting residents protect themselves against mosquito bites and remove standing water from private property to prevent mosquito breeding.

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“It is important to take precautions to avoid illnesses spread by insects including West Nile virus, lyme disease, and eastern equine encephpalitis (EEE),” Dr. Bart Harvey said in a release on Thursday.

“Employing simple preventive measures such as using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin, covering up, and removing standing water on your property to prevent mosquito breeding will reduce your risk while you enjoy the outdoors.”

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Harvey said the risk is likely to remain until the next heavy frost reduces mosquito populations.

Despite the increase in risk, the city has generally seen a decline in positive mosquito pools in recent years since reporting 32 positive pools in 2017. The numbers were 13 in 2018, four in 2019 and 11 in 2020.

Reported human infections were six in 2018, two cases in 2019 and three in 2020.

The city has not had a death connected to WNV since 2012, when one person died in a year when 20 human cases were reported.

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Older adults or those with weakened immune systems may experience West Nile fever and more severe issues including inflammation of the brain or the lining of the brain.

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Harvey says if symptoms do occur, they usually appear two to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

The city says it has recently completed a first round of larviciding treatments on street catch basins and is treating water surfaces on public land in hopes of reducing insect numbers.

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