On the tail end of summer, Peel Public Health reported that a batch of mosquitos collected on Dundas Street West and Old Carriage Road area in Mississauga tested positive for carrying the West Nile virus. This was the second WNV-positive batch found in 2019, with the first case found in Brampton during the week of July 22.
What is the West Nile virus?
The West Nile virus is a single-stranded RNA virus that is a part of a larger virus family that includes the Zika virus, and the yellow-fever virus. RNA viruses are tricky to deal with due to their RNA composition, as opposed to a DNA composition, which allows them to mutate easily. No approved vaccine currently exists to combat WNV.
What does the West Nile virus do?
In mild cases, the WNV induces fever, headaches, body aches, vomiting, and rashes. These symptoms are usually apparent around two to fifteen days after infection. In severe cases, the WNV can induce encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the brain’s meninges), and complications with the central nervous system. WNV is also associated with neck stiffness, confusion, and seizures. Ten per cent of the cases dealing with the central nervous system are fatal. So the West Nile virus has no vaccine, is spread by mosquitoes, can be fatal, and has been spotted in Mississauga.
Why isn’t this causing mass panic?
This is because WNV seems to be nowhere near the level of fatal other viruses such as the Swine Flu or the Ebola virus are. The West Nile virus is often kept in circulation between birds and mosquitoes, unless mosquitoes transmit it to humans. While there are cases where symptoms can be fatal, according to Health Canada 70 to 80 per cent of infected individuals do not display symptoms. On top of this, about one per cent of infected individuals develop severe symptoms.
So, what should I do to limit the chance of getting infected?
The mosquito problem in Canada is nowhere near as problematic as in other countries like Pakistan or India. In Canada, extra precautions should be made to guard against mosquitoes, just in case.
Mosquitoes gather near many isolated areas like camp grounds and standing water, which serve as optimal conditions for mosquito larvae to grow.
Bug spray can help defend against mosquitoes, and you can also reduce visits to optimal mosquito locations around the house and around urban areas. Getting rid of standing water helps prevent mosquitoes from congregating there and giving birth to more mosquitoes.
It helps that the frigid cold Canadian winter is coming (and sooner rather than later this year it seems), so hopefully we won’t have to deal with this problem for long. The West Nile virus currently doesn’t seem to have infected anyone in Mississauga according to Peel Public Health.
By taking the necessary precautions, we can make sure it stays that way as we move towards 2020.