Aug. 3, 2012, 2 p.m.
West Nile virus has made headlines with a higher rate of human cases reported south of the border and one Ontario health expert says the mosquito-borne virus is here to stay.
“Our concern should mirror every year,” Dr. Colin Lee of Public Health Ontario told Canada AM on Friday. “This is probably here to stay every summer and we are advising the same kinds of precautions.”
On Thursday, health officials in Toronto announced that two probable human cases of the virus were contracted by an 80-year-old man, who has since been hospitalized, and a 32-year-old woman.
Toronto Public Health believes both cases were contracted in the city.
“We definitely do check travel histories of people and there is nothing that leads us to believe that they contracted it somewhere else, at this point,” said associate medical officer of health Dr. Howard Shapiro.
Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, health officials announced the first human case of West Nile virus in the province on Friday. The virus was discovered in Regina before the individual was to donate blood.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that more serious illnesses from West Nile virus have been reported in 2012 than any other year since 2004, when 154 cases were documented.
According to the agency, in the U.S. more than 240 cases have been reported this summer in 22 states and four of those cases led to death.
Lee said with more mosquitoes carrying the potentially deadly virus this year, Canadians must take precautions to protect themselves from bites and discourage the breeding of the pesky insect.
He recommended wearing long-sleeve clothing and insect repellent as two ways to prevent mosquito bites. He added, “If you had a choice to spend your time outside, dusk and dawn is when mosquitoes are most active.”
Lee said it’s a common misconception that mosquitoes don’t flourish in the extreme heat that much of the country has experienced this summer. Rather, he said the warmth makes it easier for the insects to breed.
“We are enjoying the summer but unfortunately so are the mosquitoes,” said Lee, adding that more mosquitoes were able to survive the warmer than average winter.
Eliminating still water, which mosquitoes require to breed, can also help curb the population.
He recommended that Canadians take extra precautions around their gardens to eliminate still water.
For those who do get bit by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, 80 per cent will experience no symptoms.
For those who do feel the effects of the virus, Lee said 99 per cent will generally have feelings of a bad cold, including head aches, fevers, muscle aches and rashes.
“But having said that, about 1 in 150 people who do have symptoms can have more serious symptoms,” said Lee, pointing to seizure, muscle weakness, paralysis and even death.