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May 7, 2003
Toronto's West Nile Virus Plans Reviewed
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sheela Basrur, together with the Chair of the
Board of Health, Councillor Joe Mihevc, today reviewed several initiatives for
the control and prevention of West Nile Virus, including the City's plan to put
larvicide in 175,000 catch basins across Toronto to reduce the mosquito

Other initiatives announced today include the Toronto Public Health West Nile
Virus information line. The line provides up-to-date information on the virus,
including tips for personal protection and allows the public to report dead
birds. Public Health staff will also host several community information
sessions for the public on West Nile Virus.

"There is not a single approach to reducing the risk of West Nile Virus. The
City has an integrated program that involves disease surveillance and mosquito
control. But we also need the public to help by eliminating mosquito breeding
sites around the home. And we are reminding everyone to take personal
protection measures such as wearing insect repellent and appropriate clothing,"
said Dr. Basrur.

The risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus remains low. Most people who
get the virus will experience no symptoms, or mild flu-like symptoms that
disappear after a few days. Councillor Mihevc cautioned the public to keep the
risk in perspective, and to stay informed.

"I want to encourage residents to take advantage of our efforts to keep people
informed. Come to our community information sessions, visit our web site, call
our hotline. I also want the community to know that we are monitoring for the
virus and have control measures in place to reduce the risk."

The City will sample a number of catch basins on Toronto streets to test for
the presence of mosquito larvae. Test results and weather conditions will
determine when larviciding will start, although it is likely that the program
will begin at the end of June.

The mosquito species known to carry the virus breed in shallow, still water and
do not breed in open bodies of water or rivers.

More information and backgrounders on the City's West Nile Virus program can be
found at: and are also shown below.

Backgrounder: West Nile Virus Larviciding Program

Backgrounder: City of Toronto West Nile Virus program

The first human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Toronto occurred in 2002.
There were 97 confirmed cases reported to Toronto Public Health. Twelve Toronto
residents with evidence of WNV infection died. In three of these cases
encephalitis brought on by the virus was the cause of death.

While most people infected with WNV show no symptoms or have mild flu-like
illness, some may become very sick and experience serious, lasting illness. It
is not possible to predict the number of human cases or deaths that may occur
this year.

Toronto Public Health initiatives to control West Nile Virus in 2003:

Information and reporting hotline - 416-338-7600
A hotline is available seven days a week for general information and to report
stagnant water and dead birds or to request dead bird pick-up.

Bird surveillance and pick-up
Up to six birds per week will be sent to the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife
Centre in Guelph for testing to determine the presence of WNV in the city.

Mosquito surveillance - adult
Toronto Public Health will monitor 15 portable mosquito traps set up throughout
the city to track the prevalence of West Nile Virus among adult mosquito

Mosquito surveillance - larvae
Surveillance will identify breeding sites for culex pipiens - the primary
carrier of the virus and the target of larviciding measures. Further testing
will determine the presence of larvae before and after the application of

Human surveillance
West Nile Virus is a reportable disease and must be reported to Toronto Public
Health by physicians and laboratories. Public Health will track the number of
human cases of West Nile Virus and will provide information on the symptoms of
the virus to physicians and hospitals.

Education and outreach
The City of Toronto is developing a campaign to reach residents through a
variety of communications vehicles, including: community information sessions;
existing City publications and on-line information; paid advertising;
circulation of materials to libraries and civic and recreation centres. This
information will emphasize both what the City is doing and what residents,
businesses and institutions can do. Strategies to reduce mosquito breeding
sites will be promoted to the private sector and with City staff and
institutional partners such as school boards, hospitals, TTC, Toronto Community
Housing Corporation, Toronto Hydro, etc.

Pilot projects
The City will conduct a number of pilot projects to control mosquito
populations in the City's catch basins using alternative methods. These include
steam, larvasonic equipment, vacuum, drainage holes, filter cloth and
electrical current.

The City of Toronto is asking residents to help prevent West Nile Virus in the
following ways:

1. Eliminate breeding sites
The most effective way to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus is the
elimination of mosquito breeding sites. The mosquitoes that transmit the virus
breed in small pools of stagnant water and in places with decaying organic
matter (e.g., leaves, grass clippings, animal waste). Theses mosquitoes need
only a very small amount of water to breed. To eliminate breeding sites in and
around the home and/or business, clean out rain and roof gutters, wheelbarrows,
flowerpots, etc. and any other place that can collect water. Change pool and
birdbath water at least once every three days.

2. Protect yourself from bites
The best way to protect yourself and your family is to limit your exposure to
mosquitoes. Consider wearing clothing that minimizes the amount of exposed
skin. Apply insect repellent when out after dusk or in shaded areas (such as
woods) during the daytime.

The following precautions can help you and your family have a safe

Personal precautions against mosquitoes outdoors

Protect yourself outdoors
· Wear light coloured long-sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes and socks outdoors
whenever possible.
· Stay indoors at dawn and at dusk through early evening whenever possible.
· Wear insect repellents when in areas where mosquitoes are more likely to be
found (e.g., in the woods, near a ravine).

Use insect repellents safely
· Use products containing 10% or less DEET.
· Care should be taken when applying insect repellants to children less than
two years of age.
· Follow the instructions on the products.
· Apply only to exposed skin and clothing. Use just enough to cover
skin/clothing and do not apply more than three times a day.
· Never use over cuts, wounds, sunburn, or irritated skin.
· Wash repellent off daily and reapply only as needed.

Reducing mosquitoes in and around your home

Protect yourself indoors
· Use fine-mesh screens on windows and doors.
· Make sure screens do not have holes and fit tightly.

Eliminate breeding sites outdoors
· Do not allow water to collect in the bottom of garbage cans.
· Clean pet food and water bowls and store them indoors when not in use.
· Clean roof gutters, downspouts and eavestroughs regularly.
· Clean birdbaths and trays under potted plants twice a week.
· Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows when not in use.
· Eliminate discarded tires. If you must keep them, remove any standing water
from the tires and store them covered.
· Use a pump to circulate water in ornamental garden ponds.
· Use a screen to cover rain barrels.
· Cover catch basins on your property with a fine mesh screen. Do not place
larvicide in your catch basins.

Media Contact
Toronto Public Health



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