Sept 23, 2008
Media Release

First bird tests positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) in York Region

Despite cooler weather residents reminded to protect themselves from WNV
NEWMARKET The Regional Municipality of York Community and Health Services department reports a dead bird has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV).  The positive bird was found in the Town of Markham, close to the intersection of Woodbine Avenue and Highway 7.  The bird was picked up as part of the WNV surveillance program, and is the first positive bird reported in York Region this season.
"Lab results have confirmed that one bird and an additional mosquito pool have tested positive for West Nile Virus," said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region Medical Officer of Health.  "Mosquitoes are active until the first hard frost of the year and residents must remain vigilant about protecting themselves and their families."
Like humans, West Nile Virus is transmitted to the bird and human population by infected mosquitoes.  Crows, blue jays and other raptorial species are known to be most susceptible to the disease and act as an early warning sign for the presence of the virus in a particular area.
To date this season, one bird, one human case and two mosquito pools have tested positive for WNV in York Region.
Report dead crows and blue jays. York Region Community and Health Services requests residents report sightings of dead crows and blue jays through the Health Connection information line.  Suitable specimens may be collected and submitted to the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre in Guelph for testing.  All crows and blue jays will help track the travel of the virus within York Region.
Dead bird pick-up service is available. Most dead birds will not be suitable for testing, but knowing what species they are and where they died is important information.  Do not handle birds with bare hands or dispose of dead birds through the municipal garbage systems.  Please contact Health Connection for pickup of dead birds of any species.
The symptoms for 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).  Those experiencing symptoms should seek medical advice.
Prevention and protection are the best ways to protect yourself and your family from WNV.  There are simple and common sense precautions that should be taken:
 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, as directed
 Ensure screens on your home are tight-fitting and in good repair
 Mosquitoes breed in still water; eliminate stagnant water around your property that can gather in pool covers, flower pots, children's pools, old tires and birdbaths

The York Region 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:
 Four applications (June, July, August and September) of larvicide target all catch basins along regional and municipal roads and in catch basins, as required, on private property.
 Larvicide interferes with the mosquito life cycle, preventing the mosquito larva from reaching maturity. Larvicide has been approved by both the provincial and federal governments and is considered low risk for humans, pets and the environment.
 Larvicide is applied by Ministry of the Environment licensed applicator Canadian Centre for Mosquito Management Inc.  Treated catch basins will be marked with a coloured dot.
 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.
 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. 
To report a dead crow or blue jay, or for more information on WNV or any health-related topic, please contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
To review the current status of WNV in Ontario, please visit
For more information on The Regional Municipality of York, please visit
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Community and Health Services, York Region
 Phone:  905 830-4444, ext. 1235 or After-hours Cell: 905 251-5553

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