November 2, 2004

West Nile virus program ends for season

NEWMARKET: York Region Health Services reports that the West Nile virus control program has ended for the season.
“Much of the success of this year’s West Nile virus control program depended on the involvement of local residents,” commented Dr. Helena Jaczek, Commissioner of Health Services and Medical Officer of Health. “Many thanks to all those who reported dead birds through the Health Connection information line, who reduced mosquito breeding grounds around their homes, and who made the effort to protect themselves from being bitten.”
Residents had been asked to report dead crows and blue jays as a tool to determine possible West Nile virus activity in York Region. Suitable specimens were collected and submitted to the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre in Guelph for testing for the virus.
As of October 31st:
• A total of 1,690 dead birds were collected
• A total of 65 birds were suitable and submitted for testing
• A total of 11 birds tested positive for West Nile virus
All West Nile virus surveillance activities including the trapping and testing of mosquitoes have concluded for the season. In addition to crows and blue jays, and as an enhanced service this year, York Region Health Services offered a dead bird pick-up program for birds of any species. This program has also ended for 2004.
If you find a dead bird, do not handle it with bare hands or dispose of through the municipal garbage systems. If you choose to handle a dead bird, wear rubber gloves, double bag the carcase and bury under two feet of soil using a spade or shovel.
Like humans, West Nile virus is transmitted to the bird population by infected mosquitoes. Crows, blue jays and other raptorial species are known to be most susceptible to the disease and act as early warning signs for the presence of the virus in a particular area.
This year’s surveillance program highlights relatively low West Nile virus activity in 2004, with 11 birds and one mosquito pool (or batch) testing positive for the virus in York Region. No locally-contracted human cases were reported. In comparison, there were 2 human cases, 9 birds and 6 mosquito pools testing positive for the virus in York Region in 2003.
Many factors contributed to the low incidence of West Nile virus activity in York Region in 2004, including extensive public education programs; mosquito, bird and human surveillance; and mosquito control activities including larviciding.
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 Ext. 1238


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