City continues effort to take the sting out of West Nile virus

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With the focus on combating the COVID-19 crisis, it’s perhaps easy to forget, or ignore, other potentially deadly bugs out there, including the West Nile virus. Remember that one?
As you may recall, the mosquito-borne virus can cause serious illness in people who are infected, and sometimes death. According to the World Health Organization, it can be traced back to 1937, to a woman living in the West Nile district of Uganda.
A significant outbreak occurred in the United States and elsewhere in the late 90s, and, says the WHO, “highlighted that importation and establishment of vector-borne pathogens outside their current habitat represent a serious danger to the world.”
City council was recently updated on the municipality’s 2020 program to control the virus by larviciding municipally owned catch basins, an effort that began in late June. It’s an annual program that essentially involves using pesticides to control mosquitoes when they are in the larval stage of development.
“Ontario Regulation 199/03, Control of West Nile Virus (WNv) empowers the Medical Officer of Health to determine if there is a need to reduce the risk of exposure to WNv and if so, compel municipalities to take action. The Medical Officer of Health will notify a municipality of any required actions through a ‘Notice to Larvicide’,” writes Sandra Brunet, manager of business performance and environmental sustainability, in a report to council.
“The ‘Notice to Larvicide’ for the City of Barrie was issued on April 15, 2020 requiring that municipally owned catch basins receive larvicide application during the summer months for 2020.”
Municipally owned basins on private property will not be scheduled for larvicide application, and will be managed on a request only basis by the landowner.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) WNv Surveillance Program includes monitoring of, but not limited to, municipal catch basins, stormwater ponds, natural sites, and adult trapping, reads the report.
The program is carried out by SMDHU Staff. Cost of the program is spilt 30/70 between the City and health unit, with the latter picking up the larger share.
“The Culex pipiens/restuans species of mosquitos typically breed in catch basins and are a major contributor to viral infections in birds. The larvicide, when applied to the catch basin sumps, will disrupt the mosquito’s life cycle and adult mosquitos will not emerge. By reducing the adult Culex population, amplification of WNv is reduced and the risk of exposure to WNv in the human population is reduced,” reads the report.