(File image. Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention / James Gathany)

Ottawa Public Health says there is confirmation of West Nile virus in the local mosquito population this year.

"Mosquito trapping and testing-components of Ottawa Public Health's West Nile virus program-have confirmed the presence of the virus in Ottawa," OPH said in a press release Tuesday. "As of Wednesday, August 5, there have been zero reported human cases in Ontario this year. In 2019, there was one human case reported in Ottawa, and 24 cases in Ontario."

Residents are asked to help reduce the mosquito population by eliminating sources of standing water on their properties, where mosquitoes lay eggs. Common sources of standing water include bird baths, toys, flower pot saucers, swimming pool covers, old tires, wheelbarrows, buckets and cans.

You can also reduce your risk of mosquito bites by:

  • Applying a Health Canada-approved mosquito repellent containing DEET or icaridin to exposed skin and clothing;
  • Protecting yourself especially between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, and at all times in or near shady, bushy or wooded areas;
  • Wearing light-coloured, tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing, including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to protect exposed skin
  • Making sure all windows and doors in your home have screens that are in good condition
  • Keeping all openings to rain barrels covered with screen mesh at all times

On City of Ottawa property, OPH will, when necessary, apply mosquito larvicidal treatment of standing water sources, such as ditches and storm water management ponds.

OPH says it also regularly applies larvicide in City-owned roadside storm sewer catch-basins to reduce the mosquito population.

WHAT IS WEST NILE VIRUS?

"West Nile virus is an infection spread primarily by the northern house mosquito that, in a small number of cases, can cause serious illness," OPH says. "The risk of more serious illness-occurring in less than one per cent of infections in which WNV invades the central nervous system-increases with age, with older adults, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems at higher risk."

Most people will not develop any symptoms but OPH says, "About 20 per cent may experience flu-like symptoms, including a fever, headache, muscle aches and, possibly, a rash."