Together with First Nations organizations and communities, Health Canada carries out many activities to help people keep healthy and to prevent chronic and contagious diseases. This involves promoting public health through the prevention and control of diseases, including diseases that cross the boundary between animals and humans such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, rabies, and hantavirus.
How to wash your hands:
Always wash your hands:
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an excellent alternative to hand washing when soap and water aren't available. If your hands are very dirty, use soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a moist-towelette that contains detergent followed by an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
To use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
Young children can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, but make sure they rub their hands completely dry before touching anything to prevent them from taking in alcohol from hand-to- mouth contact. Store the container safely away after use.
In Canada, only the deer mouse has been identified as a carrier of hantavirus, however not every mouse is a carrier. Since it is hard to tell if a mouse carries hantavirus, it is best to avoid all wild mice and to safely clean up any rodent droppings and nests in your home. Dogs and cats that come in contact with rodents cannot give people hantavirus infections.
People can get sick when they breathe in hantavirus particles that have become airborne during cleaning activities such as sweeping and vacuuming in rodent infested buildings. Hantavirus causes flu-like symptoms but it may progress into serious lung complications that can be fatal.
To reduce the risks associated with hantavirus:
How to clean up mouse droppings:
Do not sweep or vacuum up mouse droppings or nests. Sweeping and vacuuming moves virus particles into the air, where they can be breathed in.
For more information, visit the Hantaviruses Web page.
Humans are exposed to rabies by bites from dogs and cats that have had contact with rabid wildlife such as coyotes, bats, foxes, skunks or raccoons, or through direct contact with rabid wildlife. Symptoms of rabies include twitching around the bite mark, fever, headache, and fatigue. It could lead to difficulty speaking, sensitivity to light and sound, double vision, hallucination, partial paralysis, aggressiveness, seizures and death.
Here's how to prevent rabies:
Avoid touching or close contact with animals that might be sick. Rabid animals can show a variety of symptoms. They may become unafraid of humans, appear outside their normal habitats, walk with an unsteady step and be seen at times of the day when they are usually not active. They can also appear hyper and show indiscriminate biting.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. It is transmitted from ticks (small insects) to people through the bite of an infected tick. Tick bites are usually painless and most people do not know that they have been bitten.
Lyme disease in people starts about two weeks after the tick bites with an expanding ring-like rash, which then fades. Many people develop "flu-like" symptoms, such as headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches or fatigue.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. If untreated, some people may continue to experience headaches, and may develop dizziness, difficulty concentrating, stiff neck and, in rare cases, an irregular heartbeat. Some people may also develop chronic joint pain and swelling. These symptoms may occur for up to two years or more after a tick bite.
How to avoid tick bites
Apply insect repellent containing DEET or other approved products whenever you are likely to be exposed to ticks or insects. Always follow the directions.
Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and a hat if you are camping, hunting or going into wooded or swampy areas. Tucking pants into socks will reduce the chance of ticks getting onto your skin.
Check yourself, your family and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.
What should you do if you think you have been bitten?
West Nile Virus (WNV) is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected with the virus after feeding on wild birds that carry it. Most people infected with WNV do not show any symptoms. Others develop a flu-like illness. In rare cases, WNV leads to severe illness and even death. Anyone can get sick from WNV, but the risk of severe illness increases with age.
How you can reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus:
Are insect repellents containing DEET safe?
Yes! Health Canada recommends insect repellents containing 5% to 30% DEET. DEET has a 50-year history of safe use in North America. Only use insect repellents that are registered in Canada.
Directions for applying insect repellent:
Guidelines for using insect repellent:
During spring and summer, keep your home and yard clear of standing water because mosquitoes can develop in even a small amount of standing water.
For more information and links to resources on West Nile virus, visit the Health Canada West Nile Virus webpage.
Avian influenza or 'bird flu' is a virus that can affect all species of birds but can, less commonly, infect mammals including people. Wild birds are not generally affected by bird flu but can still spread it to domestic birds such as chickens, geese and turkeys. There is a strain of bird flu called H5N1 circulating throughout Southeast Asia and parts of Europe. This particular strain of flu will kill most domestic birds it infects, including chickens, ducks and geese. Avian influenza viruses such as the H5N1 virus can, on rare occasions, infect people. To date, most human cases have been linked to direct contact with infected poultry and their droppings. This contact often includes exposure to the virus during the slaughter, de-feathering and preparation of poultry for cooking.
To help reduce your risk:
For more information and links to resources on Avian Influenza, visit Health Canada's Influenza (The Flu) webpage.
Influenza, or the "flu", is a common respiratory illness affecting millions of Canadians each year. Although most people recover completely, between four and five thousand Canadians can die of influenza and its complications annually, depending on the severity of the flu season.
The good news is that you can decrease your chances of getting the flu this winter by getting an influenza vaccination, known as the "flu shot". It is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu, reduce the spread of infection, or minimize the severity of the symptoms. It is necessary to be immunized each fall. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.
For more information and links to resources on the Flu, visit Health Canada's Influenza (The Flu) webpage.
If you become sick after handling wild animals, see your doctor. Consider getting an annual vaccination against seasonal human influenza if you often hunt or handle wild birds. This vaccination will not protect you against bird flu, but it will reduce the likelihood that you will become infected with both human and bird flu strains at the same time. This will limit the chance of the flu viruses mixing to create a new strain of flu virus to which people have little or no immunity.
Help reduce the risk of foodborne illness for your family and friends during the holiday season by following some basic food safety tips.
Clean - wash hands, contact surfaces (e.g. kitchen counters) and utensils often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Separate - keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross contamination. Use two cutting boards, once for raw meat, poultry and seafood, and one for washed fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food, unless it has been washed with soap and warm water.
Cook- kill harmful bacteria by cooking foods to the proper internal temperature. Use an instant-read digital thermometer and cook to at least these temperatures:
Chill - keep cold foods cold, and out of the danger zone between 4ºC (40ºF) and 60ºC (140ºF).
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours in shallow covered containers.
Travel - as always, keep hot foods hot (at or above 60ºC/140ºF) and cold foods cold (at or below 4ºC/40ºF) if you are travelling with food. Transport hot food in insulated containers with hot packs. Transport cold food in a cooler with ice or a freezer pack.
For more information, talk to your healthcare provider or visit Holiday Food Safety for more information about food safety.
For more information, talk to your community's Environmental Health Officer or healthcare provider.