06/11/2013 09:15 EDT | Updated 08/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Montreal sees sharp rise in West Nile virus infections

Public health officials are warning Quebecers about a resurgence of West Nile virus.

There were 132 cases last year, of which five were fatal. That number was a sharp increase from the 42 cases reported in 2011.

Most people who contract West Nile virus may not experience any symptoms, or just mild flu-like ones like fever, headache, body aches, as well as mild rash. But for those with weakened immune systems, the virus poses a threat of meningitis, encephalitis and acute flaccid paralysis.

Quebec public health director Danielle Auger said people living in the city need to watch out for mosquitoes -- most of last year’s reported cases happened in and around Montreal.

“It’s not when they’re in the woods or in the Laurentians that the risk is there. It’s when they’re at home, or on the balcony,” she said.

Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, and so removing sources of water accumulation helps to reduce their population.

For the government’s part, it ordered insecticides to be spread in specific areas and particularly in catch basins, which are pools of stagnant water meant to attract mosquitoes.

“We will put methoprene in the catch basins. We will treat around 200,000 catch basins this year, three times,” said Robert Chénard of the province’s society for the protection of forests against insects and diseases.

He said the use of larvicides such as BTI (bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) is the best way to fight off the virus.

Both compounds are environmentally friendly, Chénard said, and don’t pose a threat to human health.