More mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus in Hamilton, and the city's associate medical officer of health assures that the threat to the average person is real.
The virus can be contracted when the person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Of those infected, only one per cent fall seriously ill. Eighty per cent of those bitten likely don't even notice.
But there's no telling who will impact, said Dr. Hamidah Meghani.
Many illnesses impact the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. But that's not necessarily the case with West Nile, Meghani said.
In fact, last week saw the first human case of West Nile in a Hamiltonian, and it was a 20-year-old woman.
“Anyone doing any sort of outdoor activity is susceptible,” she said.
City of Hamilton Public Health Services found seven more pools of mosquitoes containing insects testing positive for the virus this week.
Two were in lower Stoney Creek, two were in lower east Hamilton, one was in central Mountain and two were in Dundas.
That makes for 14 positive mosquito pools found this year.
Four out of five people bitten by an infected mosquito experience no symptoms, Meghani said. The remainder experience mild symptoms.
But a small number — one per cent of those infected — will develop serious illnesses such as meningitis and encephalitis, which can cause severe illness or death.
Symptoms include nausea, severe headaches, high fever, stiff neck, drowsiness, confusion, muscle weakness and paralysis.
The last death of a patient with West Nile happened in Hamilton in 2002.
West Nile only spreads from person to person through donated blood. For that reason, Canadian Blood Services screens for the virus, Meghani said.
There have been eight probably or confirmed human cases of West Nile in Ontario so far this summer. There are two in the Windsor area, two in Halton, one in Hamilton and three in Toronto.
Public health officials recommend people: