Do I have West Nile Virus?
Toronto and Southern Ontario have the highest West Nile infection rate in all of Canada. The virus is chiefly spread through mosquitos, which are particularly active in warmer weather. West Nile symptoms appear anywhere from 2-15 days after infection from a mosquito bite. If you are experiencing a combination these West Nile symptoms, you should speak with your doctor and seek emergency medical attention if symptoms become acute. It is possible for mosquito bites to go unnoticed, so even if you have not felt an itchy mosquito bite in the time before experiencing these symptoms, you should still contact a healthcare professional for a diagnosis.
Mild symptoms of West Nile include fever, headache, body aches, mild rash, swollen lymph glands.
Acute symptoms include rapid onset of a severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, difficulty swallowing, drowsiness, confusion.
Additional severe symptoms: loss of consciousness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
What should I do if I think I have West Nile Virus?
If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with West Nile virus you should seek immediate medical attention.
Doctors or healthcare providers will diagnose West Nile virus based on individual symptoms and bloodwork if necessary. If you have noticed a mosquito bite in the time before experiencing the symptoms doctors may need to know when and where you received that bite.
How serious is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus can lead to severe disease. Humans are at high risk from mid-April to the first frost in early fall. With the rising temperatures in Canada, the season for high risk is longer. People who are over the age of 50 with chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, heart disease are in the greatest danger, included are people undergoing treatment for chemotherapy due to the weakened immune system.
Individuals who are at high risk should avoid areas and situations where they can avoid bites. Mosquitos are most active during the warmer months at dusk and dawn. They prefer low wind conditions and are attracted to body sweat and body heat, certain types of body odour, CO2 emissions, dark clothing and type O blood.
Long term effects for West Nile are still relatively unknown. Most infected individuals make a full recovery in a short period of time, but some cases have led to prolonged symptoms and even death.
Some prolonged effects of West Nile virus are facial paralysis, long-term muscle pain, exhaustion and headaches, problems concentrating, depression or confusion.
When, where and how did I contract West Nile virus?
West Nile originates in different urban bird species. The virus is commonly spread to humans and animals after being bitten by a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird.
In rare cases the virus can spread through blood transfusion, organ or tissue transplants, pregnancy and breast milk.
Mosquitos are particularly active during warmer months, in the early morning and evening hours. The time to be most aware of infection would be dawn and dusk from mid-April until the first fall frost in October or November.
It is also possible to contract the virus with any blood to blood contact. Hunters should be cautious when skinning or butchering a carcass. Be sure to wash hands and arms thoroughly after handling any dead animal particularly birds.
How Addison can help prevent West Nile virus
The best way to reduce your risk of West Nile infection is to reduce the number of active mosquitos around places you spend long period outdoors and protecting yourself from mosquito bites especially at peak hours.
Addison offers a 360° springtime inspection of your home and yard to identify and resolve potential mosquito breeding grounds and identify potential entry points where mosquitos could gain access to the indoors.
Prevent mosquito bites by covering your skin, wearing pants, a long sleeve shirt and a hat, and by tucking your shirt into your pants and your pant legs into your socks.
Try wearing a hat with a mosquito net and favouring light coloured clothing, as some studies have shown mosquitos are less attracted to these colours.
Topical insect repellents applied directly to the skin can effectively reduce the allure for mosquitos to bite humans. Burning citronella candles or oil will ward off some mosquitos from a restricted outdoor area. DEET is sometimes used to repel mosquitoes but should not be used on the skin, only on clothing that does not make direct contact with the skin.
If you can cut down on potential breeding zones and prevent mosquitos from entering your home, you greatly reduce your risk of West Nile virus. After your Addison Springtime Inspection Service, be sure to follow the guidelines indicated by the Addison technician and to watch for signs of mosquito breeding.
Clearing clogged eavestroughs, emptying bird baths and eliminating stagnant water basins where mosquitos can lay their eggs, sealing all window and door screens and repairing leaky outdoor faucets are some of the important steps to cutting down the mosquito population near your home.
If the number of mosquitos on your property becomes unmanageable, you may choose to undertake a chemical pest control program to diminish the mosquito population and reduce your risk of contracting West Nile virus.
Give us a phone call or have a look at our Everything About Mosquitos page for a full treatment description
The government of Canada reports West Nile data every year. If West Nile is particularly rampant as it was in 2003 for example, extra care should be taken with clothing repellant and pest control when necessary.
The first case of West Nile was reported in Ontario in 2002. The following are the number of reported cases of West Nile in Canada since then:
2002: 414 cases
2003: 1482 cases
2004: 25 cases
2005: 225 cases
2006: 151 cases
2007: 2215 cases
2008: 36 cases
2009: 13 cases
2010: 5 cases
2011: 101 cases
2012: 428 cases
2013: 115 cases
2014: 21 cases
2015: 80 cases