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Prince Edward council sides with West Nile plan

By Ashliegh Gehl

A proposal to kill off large number of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus had councillors buzzing at Picton’s Shire Hall Tuesday night.

Eric Serwotka, of the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, brought the county’s West Nile Preparedness and Prevention Plan to the floor during a presentation.

Serwotka said even though West Nile is not an issue in the county, prevention measures need to be put in place.

Council supports the Health Unit in its attempt to reduce the risk of West Nile. Council also gave the Health Unit permission to carry out the larvicide program for prevention, if deemed necessary.

Council passed a motion to add the words ‘if deemed necessary’ to the prevention plan to provide flexibility if the concentration of mosquitoes is high or low.

“I think it means if there’s evidence  to support any type of action, that it would be based on clear evidence there is an issue, in terms of West Nile in the vicinity of wherever larvicide might be needed,” said Serwotka. “There would have to be a population at risk. A lot of thought taken in and the indiscriminate use of chemicals wouldn’t be part of the plan. It would be very much targeted.”

Councillor Alec Lunn was vocal about the environmental implications of larvicide use. The chemical needs to be professionally administrated as it can compromise local invertebrate populations, like frogs, salamanders and lizards, if sprayed in or near ponds.

Lunn said there haven’t been many West Nile cases in Canada to date and that if prevention chemicals are used inappropriately; it puts salamanders at risk.

On July 15, CBC reported mosquitoes in Toronto tested positive for West Nile. No one has died from the virus in Toronto since 2005 and the last known case involved one person back in 2010.

Serwotka said even though Toronto mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile, it doesn’t mean Hastings and Prince Edward is at risk.

“It’s very difficult to make assumptions based on other locations,” said Serwotka. “It’s possible. That’s why we have a surveillance program to see if there’s any issue with West Nile.”

If a case is found locally, the public is notified immediately so they can take appropriate precautions.