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Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.
Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.

News Item

First Suspected Cases of West Nile Virus in Canada

Saturday August 31, 2002

PEEL REGION/HALTON REGION, Ont. - Two residents of South Mississauga and one resident of Burlington are suspected to be the first human cases of West Nile Virus in Canada. Blood samples were sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg to confirm the positive preliminary tests. One of the Mississauga patients has developed encephalitits, while the other Mississauga patient has recovered and been discharged. The Burlington man only exhibited mild flu-like symptoms, which is common with West Nile Virus infection.

Is there cause for concern? It is always cause for concern when new diseases migrate and expand to new areas, but most infections only cause mild subclinical symptoms. In 20% of the cases, infection results in a mild flu-like illness with symptoms such as malaise, headache, anorexia, myalgia, nausea, vomiting, rash, and eyepain. Approximately 1 in 150 infections will cause severe neurological disease. People of advanced age and those with compromised immune systems are more at risk of developing these severe symptoms.

Despite all the attention West Nile Virus has been getting in the media, there is no need for the general population to panic. West Nile Virus cannot be transmitted by human to human contact or animal to human contact. The only way people can be infected by West Nile Virus is throught mosquito bites from mosquitos that have bitten another infected animal.* Some helpful methods to avoid contact with mosquitos are presented here. To put it all into perspective, more people will die from flu infection this year than West Nile Virus infection. If personal preventive measures are in place to avoid mosquito bites, the possibility of West Nile Virus is reduced. Even if one is infected with West Nile Virus, most cases will result in mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

* There has been some new information about the possibility that West Nile Virus was transmitted through Organ Donation.

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