Friday, 22 July 2011 08:17

Simple precautions can reduce West Nile virus risk

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By Rose Sanchez
Southern Alberta

July and August is the two months Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are most active and that also means the potential for West Nile virus.



Alberta Health Services (AHS) officials are hoping residents will take preventative measures to help reduce the risk of acquiring the virus this year.


“The last few summers have seen very few confirmed cases of West Nile virus, which is a positive thing, but Albertans need to remain vigilant about protecting themselves from mosquitoes,” says Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health for AHS.


Dr. Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health for the south zone of AHS agrees.


She says it is difficult to tell whether there will be any West Nile virus cases this year.


While there is a lot of stagnant water around due to the wet spring, the Culex tarsalis mosquito prefers warm temperatures in June.


Testing mosquitoes collected from pools of water was done for a few years, but now officials better understand the mosquito, it is no longer done in Alberta. Instead, officials believe residents, especially those in southeast Alberta where in the past the cases of West Nile virus has been particularly high, need to be diligent in protecting themselves.


Individuals should protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing mosquito repellent with DEET and wearing long sleeves, pants and socks when outside.


If possible avoid going outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.


“Albertans and travellers need to use these protective measures when gardening, golfing, fishing or relaxing outdoors,” says Dr. Suttorp.


Individuals should also remove stagnant water from around their homes to help keep potential mosquito breeding grounds to a minimum.


Symptoms of the most common form of West Nile virus (non-neurological syndrome) include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, a possible skin rash or swollen glands and headache. These symptoms usually occur within two to 14 days of infection; however, many people who become infected show no symptoms.


For more information on West Nile virus, visit www.fightthebite.info.

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