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West Nile Virus detected in area; threat still low

By: Matthew Blair

File Photo [1]

Mosquitoes can pose a health threat. File Photo

Winter may be just around the corner, but local mosquitoes could still pose a threat.

Despite the changing weather, a visitor to the Prince Edward County area last week was diagnosed with the West Nile Virus.

Eric Serwotka, director of environmental health and chronic disease at the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, said some local mosquitoes have been tested positive for the virus.

“We have a surveillance program in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. The heath unit conducts surveys, we trap them and have found some mosquitoes test positive in the Belleville area,“ he said.

Serwotka said there were probably a higher number of mosquitoes with the virus, but most of them have dropped off in the last three weeks. He said going into the winter, West Nile poses a low threat, but the virus could still pop up.

“Once you start to see mosquitoes test positive in our surveillance system, it’s likely the virus is across the area,” he said. “They’re very resilient, so it’s still a good idea to avoid populated areas until they’re completely gone for the winter.”

There is no way to tell if the mosquito is infected when you are bite. Some people get very mild flu symptom, including a fever, headache and body aches Others may also develop a mild rash, swollen lymph glands or no symptoms at all. In extreme cases, West Nile can cause death.

“There is a percentage of the population that gets very ill, but it’s hard to determine who that is,” Serwotka said. “The risk factor is higher for people over the age of 60.”

The health unit said it is important to remember to take precautions to avoid being infected. Use repellent with six to 10 per cent DEET. Wear long-sleeved clothing to cover up exposed skin and drain water from areas around your home.