The Telegram and The Canadian Press
A mosquito that can potentially carry the West Nile virus has been found in St. John’s, according to a news release issued today by Memorial University.
While the virus itself has not been detected, Culex pipiens, one of three species of mosquito responsible for the transmission of West Nile virus and the primary culprit in Eastern North America, has been found in the city.
This mosquito species has been collected in the past on the west coast of the island, but it has now been found on the Avalon and within the City of St. John’s.
Memorial University biology student Kate Bassett made the collection and confirmed the identification using DNA fingerprinting.
The master of science student researches mosquito-borne viruses in Newfoundland, such as the snowshoe hare virus and the Jamestown Canyon virus. Both infect wildlife, but have also been known to infect humans.
Part of Bassett’s research includes collecting mosquitos, identifying them and sending them to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, Man., to test them for the presence of viruses.
Mosquitoes transmit West Nile mainly between birds. In North America the American robin and crow can be carriers of the illness.
Humans who are bitten by a mosquito that has previously fed on an infected bird might develop medical complications related to the virus. This species of mosquito typically looks for roosting birds in the canopies of trees. It breeds in foul and still water, such as that found in a clogged rain gutters or inside a discarded tire.
Outbreaks of West Nile disease this summer have been occurring primarily in the United States. The centre of concern has been Texas, but states bordering on Canada, including Michigan, Minnesota, Idaho and Ohio, have also reported cases.
According to Public Health Ontario, West Nile virus activity appears to be surging in that province.
It's reporting that as of Tuesday, there have been 82 confirmed or probable West Nile infections in Ontario this year.
Ontario is far and away the hardest hit province so far this year.
Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also reported human cases, but their numbers are far lower so far.
To date, there have been no fatal cases this year in Canada.
The public health agency says so far Ontario's West Nile activity has been reported only in the southern part of the province.
The United States is also reporting a lot of West Nile activity this year, with 1,590 human cases so far, including 66 deaths.
The U.S. total - based on figures calculated as of Aug. 28 - is the highest figure to the end of August since West Nile was first emerged there in 1999.
More than 70 per cent of cases in the U.S. so far this year have been reported from six states — Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Michigan, according to information released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
In fact, more than 45 per cent of all cases have been reported from Texas.