April 26, 2011
Media Release

York Region begins 2011 Vector-Borne Disease program activities


NEWMARKET - The Regional Municipality of York will begin planned 2011 Vector-Borne Disease program activities in May, with a focus on West Nile virus control actions. 
 
Vector-borne diseases are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected vector organism, such as a mosquito or tick.  In Ontario, vector-borne diseases of significance are West Nile virus, Lyme disease and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.
 
“In 2010, York Region recorded the lowest year of West Nile activity and only confirmed one human case of Lyme disease,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health.  “However, public awareness and virus and disease surveillance continue to play an important role in ensuring the risk and impact to York Region residents remains low.” 
 
According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, West Nile virus is now established in Ontario, though its severity may vary from year-to-year depending on the weather’s influence on mosquito breeding conditions.  In 2011, the West Nile virus program will continue, focusing on surveillance, education and mosquito population control. 
 
The risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito and becoming seriously ill as a result of West Nile virus is low.  Approximately four out of five people infected by West Nile virus do not show any symptoms of the illness at all.
 
The symptoms for West Nile virus 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).
 
In accordance with new Ontario Public Health Standards, in 2009 the West Nile program became part of a more comprehensive Vector-Borne Disease program that addresses emerging diseases including Lyme disease and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.
 
In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, surveillance activities related to Lyme disease will continue in 2011.  Public awareness efforts will focus on Lyme disease education and personal protection.
 
As prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, virus surveillance for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, an emerging mosquito-borne virus, will be enhanced in 2011 in order to identify its potential risk.
 
For more information on this or any other public health-related topic, please contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or TTY 1-866-252-9933 or visit www.york.ca/westnile
 
For more information on the Regional Municipality of York and our services, please visit www.york.ca
 
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Media Contact: Michelle McEwan, Communications Specialist, York Region
 Phone:  905-830-4444, ext. 1209 or Cell: 905-251-6412
 Email:  michelle.mcewan@york.ca

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