As summer progresses, mosquito-borne infections become more common. Typically we don’t get West Nile virus (WNV) positive mosquitoes in Halton until late July or August, but this year mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus much earlier than past years. Likely due to the warm weather. The first two probable human cases were reported in Halton on August 3, 2012. An earlier start to the cycle could potentially lead to more West Nile virus cases in humans.
August and September are the months of highest risk for human WNV illness. The more time spent outdoors, means the more time you and your kids could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Parents should pay special attention to protection methods to avoid mosquito bites.
Here is some basic information that all parents should know about WNV and how to prevent its spread.
Are children or infants at greater risk for becoming infected with West Nile virus?
Children and infants are not at greater risk than other individuals for becoming infected with West Nile virus. However anyone who is infected can potentially develop the West Nile virus disease.
If a child is bitten by a mosquito should he or she be tested for West Nile Virus?
No. Not every mosquito carries West Nile virus and not every person bitten by a mosquito will be infected with West Nile virus. Most people, including children, who are bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, will experience no symptoms or have flu-like symptoms. Patients with mild symptoms should recover completely, and do not require any specific medication or laboratory testing. However, if your child develops symptoms such as fever, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, muscle weakness or if his or her eyes become sensitive to light you should consult your child’s doctor immediately.
Are children at risk for becoming infected with West Nile Virus while attending school, camp or playing outdoors?
Anyone can become infected with West Nile virus if bitten by an infected mosquito. Since the mosquitoes that most commonly carry West Nile virus are generally more active during the early morning and early evening, children who go on trips during the daytime are at minimal risk for exposure.
However, mosquitoes can still be active during the day in areas where there are tall grass, bushes, weeds or areas with known high mosquito activity. Precautions should be taken to protect your child from mosquito bites if a child will be in areas where mosquitoes are active.
What if I am breastfeeding?
Nursing does not increase risk of becoming infected with WNV. In a very small number of cases, West Nile virus can be spread through breastfeeding, but is not necessary for infected women to stop breastfeeding. Talk with you care provider if you have concerns.
What I can do to protect my children from West Nile virus?
The best protection against West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. Parents should help their child take protective measures as described below.
- Spend less time outside during the times when mosquitoes are active.
- Reduce the number of mosquito breeding sites around your home.
- Wear protective clothing when possible: loose fitting, light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and pants with fabric thick enough to prevent mosquitoes from biting. Shoes and socks are also recommended.
- Windows and doors should have screens that fit tightly and have no holes.
- Use mosquito nets or screens for the baby stroller.
- Use insect repellent that contains DEET if required. Follow specific instructions for the type and amount of insect repellent that should be used on babies and kids. DEET should not be used on children younger than 6 months.
Keeping our families aware of what is going on in our community is part of being a responsible parent. You can find the latest Halton facts about West Nile virus at www.halton.ca/wnv.
Share your experience:
To share your experience, or to get more information about bug bites or West Nile virus, you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.
About this guest blogger:
Lucy Sidey is a Public Health Inspector who specializes in West Nile Virus management and control. She has worked for the Halton Region Health Department, Health Protection Services since 2005. Lucy has experience in medical microbiology, food safety and parenting. She currently lives in Burlington with her husband and their two wonderful teen-aged sons. Lucy enjoys cooking and hiking.