The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reports West Nile virus has been found in a pool of Perth mosquitoes, with a senior public health official saying the Leeds-Grenville area could potentially be at risk for the virus.
The infected mosquitoes were discovered in one of the health unit's traps in Perth on Monday morning, marking the first time in 10 years the virus has been found in the Lanark and Leeds-Grenville regions.
“In the past, Ottawa's had positive cases, Kingston's had positive cases, we're just sort of been our own little island,” said Kim McCann, the health unit's senior public health inspector.
“Eventually, it was bound to show up. It just happened to show in Perth first, but it's certainly a threat to any of our municipalities.”
Other eastern Ontario municipalities have reported West Nile virus this summer.
People who become infected with the virus may sometimes have no symptoms, but some develop mild flu-like symptoms, with fever, headache and body aches. Others, particularly those older than 50, may develop more severe symptoms.
“The general, healthy population may not even realize that they've had the virus,” McCann said.
Anyone who thinks they may have become infected with the virus should contact their doctor.
So far this summer, there have been no reported human cases of West Nile virus in the region or the province.
The health unit tests mosquitoes from June until late September.
“We usually follow the frost, basically,” McCann said.
“We do it on a weekly basis and have a number of sites around Leeds-Grenville and Lanark.”
To avoid being exposed to the West Nile virus, the health unit recommends removing standing water on property to avoid providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes, to apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin, to cover up when outside and to limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
The mosquito responsible for spreading West Nile virus is usually referred to as a “container mosquito” and lives in warm, organic, sheltered standing water. It tends to feed primarily between dusk and dawn. Typically, it prefers to feed on birds, but will occasionally feed on humans.