No more signs of West Nile virus here, yet

Following word last week that a dead crow found in Kenora was a presumed case of West Nile virus, the Northwestern Health Unit said Tuesday no more “presumptive positive” results have come back to them since.
“We’ve been continuing to collect birds. It’s not so many we can’t handle it, but it keeps us busy,” said Al Mathers, environmental health officer with the health unit in Kenora.
Mathers found the crow that was “presumptive positive” in Kenora.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we find more birds than we have been, just because it’s that time of year,” he noted, adding while some horses have been found with the virus in western Canada, there have been no such reports in the Kenora-Rainy River districts.
Likewise, no positive results for the West Nile virus have come back in Rainy River District, public health inspector Dave Coats said yesterday.
“Of the 10 that we’ve sent away since July 30, three have been too decomposed to test, four have been negative, one was the wrong kind of bird, and two we haven’t heard back about yet,” he noted.
There have been more than 125 birds identified in Ontario so far this year, but this is the first presumptive case of an infected bird in this area.
There have been no human cases identified in Canada.
“With the high number of West Nile positive crows found in southern Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec, it was just a matter of time before the disease was identified in birds in our district,” Dr. Pete Sarsfield, the health unit’s CEO and medical officer of health, said in a press release issued Friday morning.
This incident also indicates there’s a strong likelihood that—as in other parts of Ontario and Manitoba—more birds will be found in Northwestern Ontario with the West Nile virus, the health unit said.
The West Nile virus is spread to human by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by biting an infected bird.
The virus is not spread by person-to-person contact and it cannot be spread directly from bird to human, the health unit said.
The risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of an infection with West Nile virus is low, and most people who become infected experience no symptoms or have a very mild illness, with fever, headache, muscle weakness, or body aches, the health unit reported.
Those at increased risk of severe illness are individuals over age 50 and those with weakened immune systems, it added.
Symptoms of West Nile virus encephalitis (the rare but serious form of the disease) include severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting, and an altered level of consciousness and mental state.
Residents can reduce the risk of exposure to mosquitos by:
•removing any standing water on their property;
•maintaining swimming pools;
•turning over wading pools when not in use;
•ensuing eavestroughs are draining properly;
•replacing damaged screening on windows and doors;
•wearing light-coloured clothing when going outside;
•wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants between dusk and dawn; and
•using a personal insect repellent, following the manufacturer’s label instructions carefully, especially as it relates to children.
The health unit said it will continue to monitor the West Nile virus in this area.