This is the worst year ever seen in the province with 155 cases of people infected so far
More than 150 Quebecers have been infected with West Nile virus this summer, while 11 have died. This is the worst year ever seen in the province, and the toll could be even higher.
“We can think that the heat of this summer has played a big role […], but we are still surprised by the magnitude,” admits Dr. François Milord, medical consultant at the Public Health Department of the Montérégie.
Her area is the most affected with 67 probable and confirmed cases. In Quebec, the 155 infections identified by the Ministry of Health make 2018 the worst year since 2012, during which 134 cases were counted. The 11 deaths to date are also twice as many as six years ago.
Josée Lavictoire-Bellemarre’s sister, Sylvie Bellemarre, is one of the victims struck down by the virus. At first feeling “tired and seized,” she died in a few days, before falling into a coma from which she never came out, less than 24 hours after hospitalization. The woman, who had encephalitis, died on September 19, about two weeks later.
Lack of prevention
“We have no information […] we have not heard about it this year,” regrets Ms. Lavictoire-Bellemarre. She does not feel that the authorities have done enough prevention.
“There are campaigns that exist, it is to pay attention,” pleads Dr. Milord.
“This increase in cases was observed late in the season. During the summer, the number of reported cases remained within the normal values of the last years, “said the spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), Marie-Claude Lacasse, by e-mail .
According to Dr. Milord, only prevention can repel the virus, since there is no vaccine or treatment to cure it. Long sleeves and mosquito repellent are the only protections.
“It’s really our body that is fighting the virus and eliminating it,” he says, adding that once the infection is conquered, the body is then immunized.
80% without symptoms
He points out that 80% of infected people will have no symptoms. About 20% will have the impression of having a flu with fever. Only for 1% of patients will the virus have more severe consequences.
Symptoms vary, from encephalitis to paralysis of some limbs.
This is particularly the case of Richard Éthier, from Laval, who has just returned home after two months of hospitalization and rehabilitation.
“I’m lucky,” says the 65-year-old, who was afraid to never walk again.
He was doing earthworks at his home in early August, when he began to feel tired. For three days, he made nights of 14 hours. He was probably feverish too, but he never realized it because of the scorching heat.
Finally going to the emergency room, he collapsed in front of the doctor. He had no balance and was unable to move his legs.
He stayed in hospital for two weeks. Once the virus was defeated, he had to relearn how to walk. Today, he moves with a walker, but he is hopeful to walk alone by Christmas.
Start from scratch
For the moment, the MSSS points out that other cases could be declared in the coming days. “We start from scratch every summer,” adds Dr. Milord, since winter kills most mosquitoes.
“We’ll have to think about next year,” he admits.
WEST NILE VIRUS
- It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.
- He has been present in Quebec since 2002.
- The risk of being stung by a mosquito vector is present until the first frosts.
- 48 confirmed cases
- 19 probable cases
- 28 confirmed cases
- 1 probable case
- 16 confirmed cases
- 1 probable case
- 15 confirmed cases
- 11 confirmed cases
- 7 confirmed cases
- 155 cases, 11 deaths
- 27 cases, 1 death
- 30 cases, 2 deaths
- 45 cases, 1 death
- 6 cases
- 32 cases, 1 death
- 134 cases, 5 deaths
Source: Department of Health and Social Services