The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) confirmed the summer’s first human case of West Nile virus in the region on August 10. Mosquitoes in the area served by the health unit tested positive for the virus in July, but human cases had only occurred in other regions of the province.
“This first human case of the summer shows that West Nile virus remains a concern in our area,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU, adding that “residents should be aware and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.”
West Nile virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. For most people, the risk of illness from West Nile virus is low. However, it can cause serious illness in others.
Rsidents can take precautions against mosquitoes and therefore against the virus by taking the following steps:
- Use federally registered personal insect repellents, such as those containing DEET. Use a light coating on exposed skin. Follow label instructions for proper application.
- Wear light-coloured clothing, long sleeves, pants and socks when outside.
- Avoid being outside at dusk and dawn, as mosquitoes are the most active at that time.
- Ensure that all containers in or around the yard like tires, pool covers, saucers for flowerpots, wading pools and children’s toys are regularly emptied of standing water.
- Ensure that screens, windows and doors are fully sealed to prevent mosquitoes from entering the house.
According to Health Canada, symptoms can range from mild to severe. Most people (70% to 80%) who are infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms.
Some people have mild symptoms that can include: fever, headache, body aches, mild rash, swollen lymph glands. First symptoms usually appear within 2 to 15 days after infection.
Anyone infected with West Nile virus can be at risk of developing more severe symptoms and health effects. Adults 50 years or older and those with underlying conditions or weaker immune systems, however, are at greater risk.
Very few people (fewer than 1 per cent of people infected with the virus) will develop severe symptoms and health effects. In many of these cases, the infection can affect the central nervous system. This is the nervous system tissues in the brain and spinal cord).
Serious symptoms can include: rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea or vomiting (sometimes both), difficulty swallowing, drowsiness, confusion, loss of consciousness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, paralysis.
In general, recovery can take a week for mild cases. Some severe cases could experience a variety of health effects for many months to years after their initial illness. Some severe cases of the disease can be fatal.
For more information, visit the EOHU’s website at www.eohu.ca or call 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120.