Two potential cases of West Nile virus are being investigated by Ottawa Public Health after a second elderly victim began exhibiting symptoms.
“The second case is like the first,” said Carolyn Pim, Associate Medical Officer with Ottawa Public Health. “It’s in an older person. The neurological symptoms of West Nile usually occur in people who are older or with weakened immune systems.”
Symptoms include weakness, confusion, disorientation and swelling of the brain, she said, adding that Ottawa Public Health couldn’t yet confirm the cases because initial lab tests need to be followed up with two or three other tests that could take two or three weeks to complete.
There may be other cases out there because 80 per cent of people who get West Nile don’t show any symptoms, Pim said. Add to that the fact that of 25 traps set throughout the city, 15 have caught infected mosquitoes since testing began in July.
“It’s something that people should be aware of,” said Pim, adding that mosquitoes have tested positive downtown. Ottawa’s last confirmed case was in 2006.
There are things people can do to avoid the virus, which can sometimes take 60 to 90 days to recover from, or even up to a year, she said.
“The most important thing is to make sure mosquitoes aren’t getting you. Wear light-coloured clothing, spray your clothing with mosquito repellant,” Pim said, adding that people should also eliminate standing water from around their homes in birdbaths, pool covers, toys and flower pot saucers.
“It’s certainly a more intense West Nile season throughout Ontario compared to previous years.”