West Nile virus activity is surging in southern Ontario and the province may be on track to equal its worst year ever in terms of total cases, an official with Public Health Ontario said Wednesday.
“It’s near impossible to predict what the future holds for West Nile virus in the next number of weeks,” said Dr. Colin Lee, acting medical director of communicable diseases at Public Health Ontario.
“But what it would be fair to say is that there will be mosquitoes still infected with the West Nile virus likely till at least mid-September.”
It’s also a very bad year for West Nile infections in the United States.
On Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control reported that 1,590 cases have been recorded so far in the U.S., and 66 people have died. That’s the highest number of cases by late August that the U.S. has seen since West Nile virus emerged in North America in 1999.
Public Health Ontario reported that as of Tuesday, there have been 82 people who have been confirmed or are deemed probable West Nile cases in the province this year.
That’s higher than any comparable period in Ontario since 2002, the province’s worst West Nile year on record. In 2002, Ontario recorded 186 West Nile virus cases by the end of August. By the time the 2002 season was over, 394 cases were recorded.
With several weeks of mosquito activity likely ahead and a long incubation period for the disease, this year’s case count could approach that territory. “I think that’s certainly possible, that we could reach what we did in 2002,” Lee said.