Health unit begins battle against West Nile virus

Windsor-Essex health unit confirms first human case of West Nile Virus for 2018

With springtime weather comes springtime insects.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is launching this year's fight against the spread of the West Nile virus — a mosquito transmitted virus that can be transferred to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Last year, there were 20 confirmed cases of the virus and three people died.

On Tuesday, the WECHU in partnership with local municipalities and Pestalto Environmental Services, will begin their West Nile virus program. 

It includes larviciding catch basins, standing water sites, and lagoons to disrupt mosquito breeding and conducting adult mosquito surveillance.

"Each year we have to prepare and assume that mosquitoes are carrying the West Nile virus," Dr. Wajid Ahmed, acting medical officer of health, at the health unit said in a statement.

"By taking simple precautions, residents can reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes."

How to protect yourself

The WECHU offers these tips to protect yourself and your family from the virus:

- Use insect repellents that contain DEET, Icaridin, or other approved ingredients on clothing as well as exposed skin. Always read and follow label directions.

- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat when outdoors. Light-coloured clothing is best as mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark colours.

- Make sure that door and window screens fit securely and are free of holes.

Remove standing water

Residents can also help in preventing mosquito larvae from developing by removing any hazards that could become a reservoir for standing water, such as old tires, upturned wheelbarrows, animal dishes, and unused flower pots. 

It is important to change water regularly, especially in pet dishes and water in bird baths. Reducing pools of standing water reduces the places mosquitoes can breed.

According to the health unit, the mosquito-borne virus can be unpredictable, ranging from no symptoms to flu-like symptoms to severe inflammation of the brain. The majority of people infected will not have any symptoms, the health unit said.

Last year, 29 mosquito pools tested positive for West Nile throughout Windsor and Essex County.