West Nile Virus and B.C. Local Governments
Programs to assist local governments and First Nations with West Nile Virus are
available through the
Union of BC Municipalities.
What is the West Nile virus?West Nile virus (WNV) was first detected in North America in New York City in 1999 and has spread across the continent. WNV is a mosquito borne virus or "arbovirus" capable of causing human illness and death. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Certain species of "bridging" mosquitoes transmit WNV when they then feed on humans or other mammals. WNV is not transmitted from person to person except by organ transplant, blood transfusion, or mother's milk.
Most people who become infected with West Nile have no symptoms at all
(4 of 5 cases). The less severe symptoms of this illness are fever, headache, and body
aches. However, there is particular concern about a more serious
expression of West Nile that can result in severe neurological
effects in the long term. Overall, one in 150 infections results in
severe neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. For more
information about health risks in BC, please check with the
Office of the Provincial Health Officer
or HealthLink BC.
Where is it now?B.C. has some regions where warm temperatures, mosquito populations capable of transmitting West Nile, and urban population concentrations produce conditions conducive to virus transmittal to humans. Tracking the spread of West Nile involves local health authorities collecting dead corvids (crows, jays, magpies) and mosquitoes. These are submitted to the BC Centre for Disease Control to be tested. Please contact the BCCDC for up-to-date information about West Nile or use their Interactive GIS Mapping for West Nile Virus.
Bird testing in provinces and states near BC has positively identified the West Nile virus. Use the links below to check provincial, Canadian, and North American maps to track the spread of the virus. Bird dispersion through east-west mountain passes (from Alberta), and up north-south river valleys (from Washington, Idaho, or Montana) will be the most likely way that West Nile virus will enter B.C.
Who is doing what?
Mosquitoes are ordinarily handled as nuisances and many local governments have
established mosquito control services. With the arrival of West Nile
virus in western Canada, mosquito control also became a health issue
and provincial and federal governments have become involved.
Public Health Agency of Canada coordinates a national approach
to West Nile including surveillance, blood screening, pesticide
regulation, information, and First Nations involvement. The
Canada web site is a good place to start for information on West Nile.
The Provincial Health Officer (PHO) is the
senior medical health officer for BC. The PHO would work with
Medical Health Officers and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in affected regions.
Further details can be found on the
PHO web site.
Ministry of Environment normally issues permits
for pesticide use where mosquito control is required.
Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) undertake the public health function in their regions. Medical Health Officers inform and advise local governments about the health issues associated with West Nile virus. Please visit your health authority site for regional information.
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) coordinates the provincial response to public health risks. The BCCDC has established guidelines for surveillance and response that categorize levels of WNV alert:
Please refer to the BCCDC site for more information on the status of West Nile.
Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is providing input into provincial response
planning to ensure that local governments are kept informed of the
progress of West Nile and appropriate responses to it.
Other Provinces and States have substantial programs to combat West Nile virus. Some programs have been in operation for since 2004.
What can local governments do?Because of the potential threat from West Nile virus, local governments should start planning for its arrival with the following activities:
Adulticiding, where adult mosquitoes are sprayed with pesticides, will
only be considered where there is significant human health risk. This decision
will be made by the local MHO in consultation with a local advisory group, the
BCCDC and the PHO.
ConclusionB.C.’s West Nile virus strategy was developed by a provincial working group including public health inspectors, physicians, veterinarians, wildlife experts, entomologists and pesticide officers. Representation also includes those from the BCCentre for Disease Control, regional health authorities and the provincial ministries of Health, Environment and Agriculture.
Please contact the West Nile virus
Co-ordinator for more
information about the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development's role in West Nile