What is West Nile virus (WNv)?
West Nile virus (Government of Canada) is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that normally causes only mild illness in humans. Severe complications, including meningitis and encephalitis, are also possible, particularly in people over 50 years of age, and among those who have weakened immune systems. The virus has been found in birds, mosquitoes, horses, and humans. Everyone is at risk and precautions are needed to protect yourself and your family from WNv.
What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
Symptoms of West Nile virus can range from mild to severe. Most people infected with the virus have no symptoms while some may experience mild symptoms including:
- body aches
- mild rash
- swollen lymph glands
In very rare cases the infection can affect the central nervous system and cause serious symptoms including:
- high fever
- severe headache
- stiff neck
- difficulty swallowing
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of consciousness
- muscle weakness
Why does Public Health Sudbury & Districts trap mosquitoes?
Public Health Sudbury & Districts traps mosquitoes to identify the different species of mosquitoes that are present in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts and to find out if the mosquitoes are carrying viruses such as West Nile virus. This is called surveillance.
Only certain species of mosquitoes feed on birds. Therefore, it is possible to find the West Nile and the Eastern Equine Encephalitis viruses in those mosquitoes. Mosquitoes caught in the traps will be tested to identify their species and to find out if they are carriers of either West Nile virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus. This information will help Public Health Sudbury & Districts inform the public about the risk of infection.
Staff from Public Health Sudbury & Districts are doing the mosquito trapping. Trapping begins at the beginning of the mosquito season and continues until the end of the season. Traps are set up throughout the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. If you come across a trap, please do not tamper with it. It is important that mosquito traps be left undisturbed so that the surveillance is accurate.
Is Public Health Sudbury & Districts testing birds?
No, Public Health does not collect or test birds for West Nile virus as the disease is known to be in Ontario. The testing of birds was used to determine the presence of the disease in the area.
How to dispose of a dead bird:
- Bird carcasses should be handled using a small shovel or large tongs, rather than by hand.
- If the use of a small shovel or large tongs is not possible, heavy-duty, leak-proof rubber gloves—like the type used in household cleaning—should be worn, preferably over leather work gloves to avoid contact with skin or clothing.
- If possible, bird carcasses should be buried several feet deep—un-bagged—where they will not be disturbed.
- If burial is not possible, the carcass should be placed in a puncture-resistant, heavy-duty, leak-proof plastic bag of appropriate size, either by using an implement to deposit the bird in the bag, or by:
• inverting the bag over the hand;
• grasping the carcass through the bag;
• and wrapping the bag around the bird without touching it.
- The bag should be sealed securely by a twist-tie, knotted string, or by knotting the bag tightly on itself. The bag should then be placed inside a second leak-proof plastic bag, which is similarly sealed. Care should be taken to ensure that the bird’s beak or claws do not puncture the bags. Double-bagged bird carcasses should be kept out of the reach of children and pets, and may be placed in garbage destined for a landfill site.
- Do not dispose of bird carcasses in such a way that they could be handled again by someone or be accessible to any domestic animals.
Anyone handling bird carcasses should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, lathering for at least 15 seconds, after the carcass is appropriately contained. If there is contact between the bird and clothing, wash your clothing as you would normally. Equipment can be cleaned using soap and water.
Protection against West Nile virus
Whether you are in your backyard, exploring local trails, or vacationing, it’s important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.
- use an insect repellent to prevent insect bites
- if possible, stay indoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active
- wear light-coloured clothing, including long sleeves, long pants, socks, and a hat whenever you are outdoors
- check all window and door screens in your home to ensure that there are no tears or holes for mosquitoes to get through
Mosquitoes need only a small amount of calm, standing water to lay their eggs and for larvae to hatch. Change or remove standing water once a week from areas that can hold water, including:
- bird baths
- old tires
- unused containers
- flower pot saucers
- swimming pool covers
- wading pools
- clogged gutters and eaves troughs
- clogged drainage ditches
- small containers like cans or bottle tops
- unused children’s toys or vehicles
For information about West Nile virus call 705.522.9200 or toll-free at 1.866.522.9200.