It’s that time of year again.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is starting its West Nile surveillance program.

It got underway on Thursday in partnership with municipalities across Essex County.

The program includes controlling mosquito populations by larviciding catch basins, standing water sites, and lagoons in the City of Windsor and the County of Essex.

“West Nile Virus is a potentially serious illness that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Each year, we have to prepare and assume that mosquitoes are carrying the West Nile virus,” says Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the Medical Officer of Health.

The virus contributed to the death of one local man last year.

There were 13 human cases of West Nile reported to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in 2018, and officials say more 25 mosquito pools tested positive for the virus last year.

“By taking simple precautions, residents can reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes,” adds Dr. Ahmed.

Those precautions include using insect repellents that contain DEET or Icaridin.

The health unit also suggests residents should avoid being outside during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

People are also encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat when outdoors.

Dr. Ahmed says light-coloured clothing is best as mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark colours.

He also suggests homeowners make sure that door and window screens fit securely and are free of holes.

While part of the West Nile virus strategy involves larviciding in areas where the mosquito larvae are found, Dr. Ahmed says homeowners and business owners can make a difference by removing standing water on their property.

This also involves removing any items that could become a reservoir for standing water, such as old tires, upturned wheelbarrows, animal dishes, and unused flower pots.

The health unit says residents should change water regularly, especially in pet dishes and bird baths, while also ensuring gutters are cleaned and swimming pools and ponds are working as intended.

Studies show reducing pools of standing water reduces the places mosquitoes can breed.