FIGHT THE BITE

– Positive West Nile Virus Equine Test Result Brings Reminder For People to Take Precautions –

(CITY OF KAWARTHA LAKES) – With the first sign of West Nile virus being detected in the area this summer, local residents are being asked to cover up and clean up to avoid mosquitoes.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit reports that a horse in the City of Kawartha Lakes has tested positive for West Nile virus. The finding was confirmed in tests taken by a local veterinarian and then reported to the Health Unit this week. The horse was treated with antibiotics and is recovering.

“Having a horse test positive for West Nile virus is not unusual, as it can easily be bitten by an infected mosquito just like a person,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection with the HKPR District Health Unit. “The key takeaway here is that there is no good time or reason to be bitten by mosquitoes, and that’s especially true with the first finding of West Nile virus in the area.”

With West Nile virus already being detected in other parts of Ontario this summer, taking precautions by fighting the bite of mosquitoes makes sense, Ovcharovich adds.

To reduce their risk of West Nile Virus, the Health Unit encourages people to:

Cover up when outside by wearing light-coloured clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, hats and socks, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Applying insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin is also recommended to limit exposure to mosquitoes.
Clean up and remove any standing water around homes, cottages or campsites. Mosquitoes need stagnant water to lay their eggs, and even small amounts will do, such as that found in bird baths, old tires and unused containers like barrels. Keep bushes and shrubs clear of overgrowth and debris, and turn over compost piles on a regular basis. People are also advised to keep buildings ‘bug tight’ by ensuring windows and door screens fit tightly and do not have holes.

“Even as conditions gets cooler into the fall, mosquito activity will continue right up until the first heavy frost,” Ovcharovich advises. “That means continuing to cover up and clean up into September and October, especially as we get out to enjoy the fall colours or wind down our garden and yard work.”

While most people who get West Nile Virus do not experience any symptoms, a small number of individuals may develop flu-like symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, muscle weakness and stiff neck. In a few cases, people may develop more severe symptoms, including confusion, tremors and sudden sensitivity to light. People who suspect they have West Nile Virus should seek medical attention. For more information, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006, or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.