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Human case of West Nile virus identified

'Late summer and early fall is the time when the risk of acquiring West Nile virus from a bite actually increases,' - Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit
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NEWS RELEASE
SIMCOE MUSKOKA DISTRICT HEALTH UNIT
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SIMCOE MUSKOKA – The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is advising the public to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites, after recent laboratory results confirmed a positive human case of West Nile virus in Simcoe County.

This is the first human case to be confirmed in Simcoe Muskoka this year. 

The health unit’s investigation has been unable to verify where the individual contracted the disease, since there had been some travel to areas outside the province where mosquitoes were present.

“People may feel, with the end of summer approaching, that the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes is reduced,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “However, late summer and early fall is the time when the risk of acquiring West Nile virus from a bite actually increases. As long as mosquitoes continue to be active, we need to take precautions to protect ourselves from the virus.”

Locally, the health unit’s surveillance program has shown that West Nile virus activity remains within local and historical norms.

To stay safe, the health unit recommends the following personal protection measures:

  • Use an approved insect repellent and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing, covering arms and legs in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Try to stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active (dusk to dawn).
  • Mosquito proof your home by removing standing water around your property and ensure screens are free from breaks or rips.

The majority of people infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms and most of those who do will experience mild illness which may include: fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting or rashes on the chest, stomach or back.

Less than one per cent of those infected with West Nile virus will experience serious symptoms, which may include: high fever, severe headache, muscle weakness, stiff neck or confusion. However, in rare instances, the virus can cause meningitis, encephalitis or death. Those at greatest risk of severe illness are people over the age of 50 and individuals with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases. The health unit encourages the public to seek medical attention if they are experiencing any symptoms related to West Nile virus.

“Past surveillance for West Nile virus in our region has shown that the virus is established within Simcoe Muskoka and that we need to be aware,” said Dr. Gardner. “The best defence against the virus is personal protection.”

For more information about West Nile virus and protecting yourself from mosquito bites, call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or connect with the health unit on Facebook and Twitter, or visit simcoemuskokahealth.org.

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