The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) has recorded its first batch of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus in five years. These positive mosquitoes came from one of the HNHU’s mosquito traps located in Simcoe.

Mosquito trapping is done as part of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s West Nile Program to monitor and report local activity and to mitigate the risk of people contracting West Nile virus.

West Nile positive mosquitos have become a local rarity in recent years, but these positive results indicate that the virus continues to be in the area.

“Since 2001, West Nile has spread throughout much of Canada and there is no indication that it is going away,” said Kris Lutzi, senior public health inspector at the HNHU.

“The virus continues to circulate in the region and the public should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Locally, the presence of the virus has fluctuated over the past five years. Between 2013 and 2015, there were no reported human cases. Single cases of West Nile virus in humans were reported by the HNHU in both 2016 and 2017. To date, no human cases have been recorded in 2018.

“However, rates could very well depend on the weather, where hot and wet conditions are more ideal for mosquito populations to grow and the virus to replicate,” said Lutzi.

Most people bitten by an infected mosquito either have no symptoms or have temporary, flu-like symptoms. For some individuals, however, the West Nile virus is a much more serious illness. The infection can affect the central nervous system and last for month or even years.

Those most at risk from serious complication from the West Nile virus include: Individuals over the age of 50; those with chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, heart disease); those who require medical treatment that may weaken their immune system, such as chemotherapy.

The best way to avoid catching the West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. The HNHU recommends the following:

Apply insect repellent containing DEET or icardin following the manufacturer’s instructions; wear light-coloured clothing, long sleeves and pants if possible; take extra care during dawn and dusk as this is peak mosquito biting time.

Remove standing water from your property where mosquitoes can breed; make sure your home, tents and campers have tight fitting screens on windows and doors.