For Immediate Release
March 29, 2001

Media Contact:
Dr. David McKeown
Medical Officer of Health
Peel Health
Region of Peel
905-791-7800, Ext. 2215

Peel Regional Council Endorses Call for Provincial Response to West Nile Virus

(Brampton) - Peel Regional Council today endorsed a request by the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health that the provincial government work with local boards of health to develop a co-ordinated province-wide response to West Nile Virus. The request is in response to possible West Nile Virus infections in birds or mosquitoes in Ontario between April and October 2001.

Peel Health is working with the area municipalities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga and will be alerting citizens to the precautions they should take to avoid mosquitoes. Council makes this recommendation to avoid an undesirable patchwork of different local initiatives across Ontario.

"It is prudent for us to reduce our possible exposure to West Nile Virus. While independent local efforts to this end are admirable, a truly effective response can be undertaken only with a provincial co-ordinating effort," says Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region

The virus, which is passed to humans through mosquito bites, was responsible for seven deaths in New York City in 1999 and two deaths in 2000. Last year, West Nile virus was detected in birds in all but one county in New York State and there is a possibility it will be detected this summer for the first time in birds or mosquitoes in Ontario.

The virus is found in infected birds and is transmitted to humans through a species of mosquito that bites both birds and humans. However, only when large numbers of birds and mosquitoes become infected is there a risk of mosquitoes transmitting the infection to humans.

In humans, West Nile Virus can cause mild to severe symptoms ranging from flu-like illness with fever, headache, muscle aches and skin rash to more severe symptoms such as neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation and coma. The disease is usually more severe in higher-risk people in the population, such as the elderly.

Communication Services, 10 Peel Centre Dr., Brampton, ON L6T 4B9
Phone: 905-791-7800, Fax: 905-791-0595 , e-mail

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