August 26, 2004

York Region resident contracts and dies of West Nile virus in Florida

NEWMARKET – A York Region resident has contracted and died of West Nile virus (WNv) in Florida. The 59-year-old Richmond Hill woman travelled to Florida in late-July, began showing symptoms of the virus in early August and later died on August 22nd.  The incubation period for WNv is three to 14 days.  Florida has reported 17 human cases of WNv infection as of
August 24, 2004.
"This is very sad news," says Dr. Helena Jaczek, Commissioner of Health Services and York Region Medical Officer of Health. "Our thoughts are with the family at this time."
“Although this unfortunate case of WNv is apparently travel-related, York Region residents can be assured that Health Services is continuing with its WNv control and surveillance activities across the Region," added Dr. Jaczek.  “In fact York Region’s fourth round of larviciding is in progress.”
To date there have been three confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in Ontario – two in Windsor and one in Toronto, which was also apparently travel related.  York Region has reported seven positive birds carrying WNv and one positive mosquito pool, none of which have come from Richmond Hill. 
“Residents are reminded that personal protection from mosquitoes is still the best method to avoid exposure to the virus,” says Dr. Jaczek.  “This includes wearing insect repellent, protective clothing, and minimizing outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.”
West Nile virus is a viral disease that can be spread to the human population by mosquitoes, which contract the disease after biting an infected bird.  WNv can cause illness in humans, especially the elderly and immune compromised population.  Humans cannot get the virus from another person, animal or bird.
In most people, exposure will result in no symptoms.  Others may have mild flu-like symptoms or a rash.  In more serious cases – less than 1 per cent of all infected individuals – encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) can occur, causing severe muscle weakness, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, nausea and eventual deterioration of consciousness or mental state.
There are simple and common sense precautions the public should take:
• Minimize outdoor activities where and when mosquitoes are most active such as dusk, night and dawn
• Wear protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts, full-length trousers, socks, light coloured clothing and tuck pant legs into socks when possible.
• Consider using an insect repellent containing 30% DEET or less (10% or less for children), as directed
• Make sure screens on your home are tight-fitting and in good repair
• Mosquitoes breed in still water. Eliminate stagnant water around your property which may gather in pool covers, flower pots, children’s pools, old tires and birdbaths
To report a dead crow or blue jay and for more information on West Nile virus or any health-related concern, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit
Contact:  Wendy Lewis, York Region Corporate Communications Services
   (905) 830-4444 or (416) 297-9696. Ext. 1238


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