Volume 94, Issue 76

Wednesday, February 7, 2001


USC prez suitors enter the clubhouse

UBC engineers under fire for prank

Frosh issues come up at Elgin forum

Deadly virus could hit London, health officer warns

Greenall says he's not so green

Tribal council gives their two cents

Prez candidates invade cyber-space

Planet Me

Deadly virus could hit London, health officer warns

By Sarah Fraley
Gazette Staff

A potentially deadly, mosquito-borne virus could be on its way to the Forest City this spring, and according to London's medical officer of health, the city had better get ready for it.

Graham Pollett, medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London health unit, said he advised London City Council as well as the Middlesex County Council last week, to put a mosquito containment program in place by the spring to prevent an outbreak of the so-called West Nile virus.

"I'm making the case to both of these political bodies to implement larvaecidal programs," he said.

Larvaecidal programs would kill unborn mosquitoes by mapping out their breeding grounds and eliminating them with chemicals, he explained.

He added the mosquito that carries the virus can fly a maximum of two miles, so the larvaecide would only need to be administered within a two mile radius of residential areas.

The West Nile virus was first spotted in North America in 1999, when it broke out in New York state, Pollett said. So far, there have been 80 reported cases in humans and eight fatalities. The virus has been now found in 57 of New York's 59 counties, and 11 other states. "It's immediately beneath us," Pollett said.

Most people who get the virus do not develop any symptoms, he said, but added those who do get sick experience flu-like symptoms, rashes and, in extreme cases, a fatal brain infection called encephalitis.

He said the virus spreads through migratory bird carriers, adding the mosquitoes contract the virus when they feed on the carriers and can later spread it to humans and animals.

Harold Usher, a member of the London's Community and Protective Services Committee, said the committee plans to work with the Middlesex-London Health Unit to create such a containment program.

Susan Eagle, London City Councilor for Ward 7, said the province has set up 21 mosquito surveillance sites that are monitored regularly.

She said prevention is the key. "In particular, we have to limit breeding grounds and breeding opportunities."

Usher said mosquito breeding grounds are found in puddles, muddy water and anything holding still water. He said he urged citizens to eliminate these possible spawning areas.

The City is hoping the province will support a mosquito abatement program, Eagle said.

Usher, who said the probability of the virus spreading is unclear, also stated education is important. "We can't take any chances. Even one death is too many," he said.

David Jensen, media relations representative for Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, said the Ministry is working towards putting a containment plan in place. "The government is developing a strategy that they hope to have in by the end of this month," he said.

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