What are we doing to control and prevent West Nile Virus?

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It was a typical August in 2012 when Anastasia contracted West Nile right here in Newmarket.  Mosquitoes and August go hand in hand so one mosquito bite may not have seemed like a big deal.  Sadly for Anastasia symptoms started suddenly and with intensity, she was finally diagnosed with West Nile a month later.  Her symtoms were...

  • Migraine

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Slurred Speech

  • Sensitivity to Light

  • Sensitivity to Sound

  • Numb limbs

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Infected Lymph nodes

  • Fatigue

  • Rapid Heart rate

  • Full body pain

  • Full body weakness

  • Sensitive to touch

  • loss of appetite

  • Severe nausea

  • Heart palpitations

If you were to GOOGLE these symptoms like we all do, you would find several different illnesses that have these same symptoms.  I have an Under Active Thyroid and I have almost all of these symtoms and I can see how easily this virus could go undiagnosed or mistaken for something else.  In addition, the virus can cause many other problems like neuroinvasive attacks such as Encephalitis.  Encephalitis means an inflammation of the brain and can be caused by either head injury, bacterial infections, or, most commonly, viral infections including West Nile.   West Nile Fever, Meningitis and or poliomyelitis or all three in tandemcan happen as a result of a West Nile infection .  West Nile also puts people at great risk if they are already suffering from chronic illness or are undergoing medical treatment. 

There is no treatment or cure for West Nile and you truly need to treat each symptom.  It is a life changer as Anastasia said “When you’ve had a neurological attack and go to bed each night worrying if you’ll wake up to see your kids the next day, you look at life a little differently.” 

 

She is grateful to have the support of her family and has made many adjustments “My children are aware and accept that I can not always attend their sports games or go out as planned because of my symptoms. I miss my old self, but am still learning to love the new me.”   Anastasia said.  Advocacy is a role Anastasia plays and plays it very well as she inspired me to learn and take a deep dive to ensure we are doing everything we can to control and prevent West Nile in our community.

FACT: In 2012 428 cases of West Nile were reported in Canada.  The third highest since 2002, with the highest being 2007 2215 reported cases and 2003 1481 reported cases.  In 2017 there were 155 reported cases in Ontario with a total of 190 in Canada.  Not all provinces report the same as Ontario which means the numbers are likely higher in Canada.

What are we doing to control and prevent West Nile Virus?

Reduce mosquito population

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In early summer ideally following the spring thaw, Newmarket and ALL York Region Municipalities aims to reduce mosquito population through a process called larviciding.  Larviciding involves using pesticides also known as larvicides to control mosquitoes when they are in the larval stage of development.  This stage occurs in water, after the mosquito eggs hatch, but before the mosquito becomes an adult that bites.

FACT: All York Region School Boards have a West Nile Mosquito Control Program.

Pesticides

All pesticides used in York Region’s mosquito control program have been approved by both the provincial and federal governments and are considered safe for humans, animals and the environment.

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When Anastasia recently shared her story with me I had never met anyone with West Nile and I wondered what steps our public health system had made when her case was officially reported.

Mosquito surveillance

We also catch mosquitoes each week, from June until October, York Region staff set up and collect up to 40 mosquito traps across York Region. Captured mosquitoes are tested for West Nile virus. Information from the surveillance is used to monitor the level of West Nile virus in York Region and to identify where in the region, it is present in mosquitoes. Knowing where and when the virus is present in York Region allows the control plan to be modified so that it remains effective.  Learn more about our West Nile Virus Control Plan

About West Nile Virus

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause serious illness in humans. West Nile virus appeared in North America in 1999. The first known human case of West Nile virus in Ontario was reported in 2002.   Learn more... 

I asked Anastasia… What would you say to a family today to help them understand what you have been through?  Anastasia had this message to share…

“If you must go outside during dusk or dawn be sure to cover up or use deet appropriately to protect yourselves. I never thought this could happen to me and it did; it turned my life inside out and upside down. Natural repellents are not created equally, many do not work, please do your research properly if you are against using deet for the sake of your loved ones. If they’re biting go inside! Be aware of the signs and symptoms and seek medical attention for any sudden migraine, unexplained fever, confusion, numbness, extreme fatigue, sensitivity to light and or sound or swollen lymph nodes. It’s not something doctors immediately think to test for, if you suspect West Nile and are exhibiting these unusual symptoms demand a blood test. This is not a North American virus, it is a tropical illness in our own back yard and must be treated as such. Remove any standing water around your home, bird baths, pool covers, pots etc. and spread the word for the sake of our community. I contracted West Nile Encephalitis here in Newmarket during the summer of 2012, I was 38, perfectly healthy and fit mother of two. My husband layed awake at night hearing my heart pounding next to him as I drifted in and out wondering if I would make it. There is no cure or treatment, it is a virus that can take a life or ruin a life as you know it, prevention is all we have right now.”

We are taking the necessary steps to control and prevent West Nile but we all play a part and need to protect, advocate and keep West Nile top of mind.     

How to keep your home clear of mosquito breeding sites

Contact York Region Health Connection to find out how to  clean up mosquito breeding sites around your home , or to report stagnant water in your community.

Contact York Region Health Connection to find out how to clean up mosquito breeding sites around your home, or to report stagnant water in your community.

Report Standing Water

Mosquitoes like to breed in standing water. Water that sits still for more than seven days creates an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos especially between early June and late August.

Contact Public Health Inspector call York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653, TTY    1-866-252-9933.

Newmarket also has their own Standing Water By-law that was passed in April 2003.  

http://www.newmarket.ca/LivingHere/Documents/2003-57%20Regulate%20Standing%20Water.pdf

To register your concern contact the Customer Service department at 905-895-5193 or file the complaint in person at the Municipal Offices

Vector-Borne Disease Program 2017/2018 Annual Update March 23 2018
Committee of the Whole recommends adoption of the following recommendation contained in the report dated March 23, 2018 from the Medical Officer of Health and the Commissioner of Community and Health Services:

http://www.york.ca/wps/wcm/connect/yorkpublic/22d70a9b-6b5e-4ed0-81d3-cacbd454e90c/apr+5+vector+ex.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

West Nile Virus ONTARIO https://www.ontario.ca/page/west-nile-virus

Thank you, Anastasia, for sharing your story and inspiring us all to keep West Nile top of mind and remember that there are bugs right outside our doors that can make us very sick.  

By working together, sharing information, ideas and being engaged in our community we can achieve results for Ward 6 together.

UPDATE September 24th 2018 via The Toronto Star
https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/09/24/27-human-cases-of-west-nile-virus-this-summer-toronto-public-health.html