April 25, 2008
Media Release

York Region begins 2008 West Nile virus control activities

NEWMARKET – York Regional Council approved the 2008 West Nile virus Control Plan for The Regional Municipality of York.  Activities including larviciding, public education, mosquito, bird and human surveillance will begin in May.
“We have been working towards controlling West Nile virus activity in York Region since 2002,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch.  “It is important that we continue our efforts and limit the impact of this disease in our community.”
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.  Mosquitoes become infected when feeding on an infected bird.  The disease can also be passed on from the infected female mosquito to her eggs and subsequent larvae produced.  In 2007, there was one confirmed human case of West Nile virus, one West Nile virus-positive bird and no West Nile virus-positive mosquito pools in York Region.
York Region experienced lower levels of WNV activity last season compared to previous years.  Research shows that higher temperatures and lower levels of precipitation may cause mosquito breeding sites to dry up, resulting in a lower number of infectious mosquitoes.
“Weather plays a role in the variation of West Nile virus cases from year-to-year in Southern Ontario,” said Town of Markham Regional Councillor Jack Heath, Chair of the Region’s Health and Emergency Medical Services Committee.  “Supporting on-going public education remains very important to the protection and prevention of human exposure to this virus.”  
In 2007, York Region public health students carried out an industrial property survey in areas of West Nile virus activity in previous years.  Staff visited over 2,000 businesses and completed more than 1,600 property inspections.
”The top four mosquito breeding sites found were unused tires, garbage containers, open barrels and other containers,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs.  “These findings help shape the 2008 West Nile virus educational messages for both residents and businesses.”
The risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito and becoming seriously ill as a result of WNV is low.  Approximately four out of five people infected by West Nile virus do not show any symptoms of illness.  Symptoms of WNV illness consist of fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, confusion, severe headache and a sudden sensitivity to light.  For a very rare few, the virus causes serious neurological illness, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
For more information on this or any other health-related topic, please contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Community and Health Services, York Region
 Phone:  905 830-4444, ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell 905 716-2717
 Email: jennifer.mitchellemmerson@york.ca
Attachment:  York Region’s 2008 West Nile virus Control Plan
Fact Sheet
Thursday, April 24, 2008 Region’s 2008 West Nile virus Control Plan
NEWMARKET – The York Region West Nile virus (WNV) Control Plan for 2008 includes:
• Public education regarding common sense and effective measures to prevent exposure to WNV
• Mosquito, bird and human surveillance
• WNV control activities, including a larviciding strategy:
o The first larvicide application will be in June, with subsequent applications in July, August and September.  These applications will target all catch basins along regional and municipal roads and in catch basins, as required, on private property.
o Larvicide interferes with the mosquito life cycle, preventing the mosquito larva from reaching maturity.  It has been approved by both the provincial and federal governments and is considered low risk for humans, pets and the environment.
o Larvicide will be applied by Ministry of the Environment licensed applicator Canadian Centre for Mosquito Management Inc.  Catch basins which have been treated will be marked with a coloured dot.
o Residents concerned about catch basins on private property are requested to place a mesh screen over the basin to prevent mosquitoes from entering and exiting.  A limited number of rear-yard catch basins located on private property will be treated with larvicide on a
 case-by-case basis.
o In addition, larvicide may be placed in ditches and temporary or permanent standing water pools, including storm water management ponds, if evidence of mosquito breeding is found. 
Protect yourself from WNV
Prevention and protection are the best ways to guard your family from WNV. These simple and common sense precautions should be taken:
• Minimize outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active, such as dusk, night and dawn
• Wear protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts, full-length pants and socks (with pant legs tucked in wear possible) and light coloured clothing
• Make sure screens on your home are tight-fitting and in good repair
• Eliminate stagnant water around your property which may gather in pool covers, flower pots, children's pools, old tires and birdbaths
Report dead crows and blue jays
Residents are reminded to report sightings of dead crows and blue jays to York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.  Suitable specimens may be collected and submitted to the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre in Guelph for testing.  All crows and blue jays that are reported will help to map out possible West Nile virus activity in York Region.
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Community and Health Services, York Region
 Phone:  905 830-4444, ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell 905 716-2717
 Email: jennifer.mitchellemmerson@york.ca

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