Richmond ends West Nile virus fight

Jonathan Tsang and Tiana Gale look for mosquito larvae at Sturgeon Banks in Richmond in 2011. Richmond has withdrawn from the battle against the West Nile Virus.  - Martin van den Hemel photo
Jonathan Tsang and Tiana Gale look for mosquito larvae at Sturgeon Banks in Richmond in 2011. Richmond has withdrawn from the battle against the West Nile Virus.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

City council officially withdrew this week from the battle against the West Nile Virus, consenting to a Metro Vancouver proposal to freeze funding for the fight.

“After years…into the program, we’ve found it hasn’t come over,” said Coun. Derek Dang. “We’ve been assured that Richmond is well positioned and if it does come, we’ll have the resources available to us.”

Since 2003 Richmond has had a program to combat the potential spread of West Nile Virus, which at the time was rapidly spreading across North America.

In a letter to the city, Richmond’s medical health officer Dr. James Lu said the spread of the virus has slowed down considerably in the Pacific Northwest, and minimal activity has been found in B.C.

No one has ever been infected by West Nile within the Lower Mainland, and it’s only been detected here once—in a horse in Aldergrove in 2009.

Richmond’s environmental programs manager, Suzanne Bycraft, said in a report there has been no further virus activity here since then.

“The B.C. Centre for Disease Control considers this region to be at the very edge of the reach of the virus. As such, there may be only sporadic low levels of activity in the future,” she noted.

Although a mosquito larviciding program aimed in the name of the virus will stop, Richmond Health Protection staff will continue to conduct the city’s nuisance mosquito control program.

That includes pre-emptive mosquito larviciding along the Surgeon Banks and throughout the city’s ditches.

Metro Vancouver had been spending $76,000 annually co-ordinating a regional response to the virus threat.

There were 24 probable or confirmed West Nile cases in B.C. residents from 2007 to 2010, but nearly all of them are believed to have been contracted travelling elsewhere.

About 20 per cent of West Nile-infected people get a fever and other symptoms, recovering within a week or so. About one in 150 get severe illness, such as brain inflammation or polio-like paralysis that can be fatal.

Authorities had repeatedly urged residents to use insect repellent during mosquito season and to take other preventative measures, such as clearing stagnant water from properties.

—with files from Jeff Nagel

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