West Nile comes early to Toronto this year

West Nile Virus is crashing summer barbeques a little earlier this year.

Toronto Public Health is reporting a mosquito caught in a trap on June 26 near Bayview Avenue and Lawrence Avenue E. tested positive for West Nile Virus. Last year, West-Nile-positive mosquitoes weren’t found until July 15.

The city is doing what it can to help lower the risk of infection, says Dr. Howard Shapiro, Toronto Public Health’s Associate Medical Officer of Health.

“Part of the prevention program is public education through news releases and our [url=]website[/url], and the 43 traps set up around the city, used to monitor the mosquito population,” Shapiro says. “But the main thing we do is treat standing water, like the catch basins on the sides of roads, with larvicide, which prevents young mosquitoes from growing up and carrying the virus.”

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne illness that causes headaches, chills and other flu-like symptoms. Those most at risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus include those with weaker immune systems or existing medical conditions.

“One out of five people who are infected feel ill, and only one in 100 need to be hospitalized,” Shapiro says. “The best way to avoid getting infected is to avoid getting bitten.”

Toronto Public Health advises people to use approved insect repellants, to wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing, and to drain any standing water near their homes to lower risk of contracting West Nile.

In 2011, there were 76 mosquitoes found to have West Nile Virus in Toronto and 28 reported human cases of the disease.

No one has died from the West Nile Virus in Toronto since 2005.