Mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus detected in KFL&A region

File photo.

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health has recently discovered the presence of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus (WNV) in the region.

The local Health Unit announced the findings on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, citing “recent surveillance efforts” carried out by Public Health as the means of detecting the virus locally.

“Additionally, Public Health Ontario confirmed that a crow from the KFL&A region tested positive for WNV,” KFL&A Public Health said in a press release.

“These findings come as a result of ongoing mosquito collection and testing initiatives carried out by KFL&A Public Health, and with the support of the public and Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to submit and test deceased wildlife in our region.”

According to KFL&A Public Health, West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans and animals through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Most individuals who contract the virus exhibit no symptoms, the Health Unit said, however, “about one in five infected persons may develop mild signs, including fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.” While most who contract West Nile Virus recover fully, “less than one percent of those infected may experience more severe symptoms and health effects.”

KFL&A Public Health said that those aged 50 or over and those with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems are “at a heightened risk of severe conditions.”

While the Health Unit noted that the last reported human case of West Nile Virus in the KFL&A region occurred in 2018, the virus was detected in neighbouring Prince Edward County last year.

Public Health pointed to preventative measures by local residents as a necessary next step. As there is no specific treatment or cure for West Nile Virus, “prevention is key to avoid infection.”

“The importance of taking preventive steps now that we’ve found mosquitoes with the West Nile Virus in our KFL&A area is key,” said Sarah Ryding, manager of environmental health at KFL&A Public Health. “Simple things like avoiding being outdoors during dawn and dusk when those pesky mosquitoes are buzzing around the most, wearing clothes to cover up, using bug sprays with DEET or Icaridin, and making sure there’s no standing water around – these are all big parts of keeping the virus from spreading.”

KFL&A Public Health shared the following prevention measures:

  • Restricting outdoor activities during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long pants and loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, socks and hat, and light-coloured clothing, as mosquitos are attracted to dark colours.
  • When going outdoors, use insect repellents that contain DEET or Icaridin and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Remove standing water as mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water (e.g., old tires, rain barrels, toys, wading pools).
  • Use screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

Further, the Health Unit shared that those who locate a dead bird on their property should:

  • Avoid touching dead birds with bare hands where possible, instead, use a tool like a shovel to dispose of it. If you must handle the bird, wear rubber gloves and wash hands well with soap and water after handling.
  • In most cases, dead animals can be put in the garbage or buried. If you are uncertain about disposal requirements, please consult your local municipality.
  • Report dead birds to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

Residents can find further information on West Nile Virus and how to protect against it on the KFL&A Public Health website.

Asked specifically where in the KFL&A region the virus has been detected, the local Health Unit shared that a West Nile Virus-positive mosquito pool has been detected in Loyalist Township, and that the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative tested a crow from Kingston that was positive for the virus.

“These results demonstrate the need for everyone across our region to reduce their risk of contracting WNV by practicing personal preventive measures — removing standing water on their property, wearing clothing that covers skin, using insect repellent with DEET and ensuring window and door screens are well-fitted,” KFL&A Public Health said.

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