Tuesday, 21 August 2012 11:57

Alberta records its first human case of West Nile virus this year

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Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially in light of the fact Alberta has recorded its first human case of West Nile virus. Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially in light of the fact Alberta has recorded its first human case of West Nile virus. Southern Alberta Newspapers photo

Alberta has recorded its first case of the West Nile virus (WNv) in humans this year.
A woman under the age of 65 who lives in southern Alberta developed the non-neurological form of the virus.


“This individual has not travelled outside of Alberta this season, meaning she was bitten by an infected mosquito right here in our province,” says Dr. David Strong, Alberta Health Services acting South Zone medical officer of health.
 “This is an unfortunate reminder that some mosquitoes do carry West Nile virus, so it’s simply best to avoid being bitten at all.”
West Nile virus is carried by the culex tarsalis mosquito which starts breeding in June. It is normal to start seeing West Nile cases in humans in July and August as mosquitoes become more active.
To help protect against being bitten by mosquitoes, individuals should keep in mind:
• Using a mosquito repellent containing DEET on exposed skin; apply it to clothing as well, because mosquitoes may bite through fabric. For adults and older adolescents, repellents containing 30 per cent DEET provide six hours of protection time. On children two to 12, use a repellent with 10 per cent DEET or lower up to three times a day. On children under two, use a repellent with 10 per cent DEET or lower once a day. Do not use DEET on infants under six months. Instead, place mosquito netting over infant carriers when outdoors;
• Insect repellent should be applied after sunscreen;
• Wear long-sleeved-shirts, pants and a hat;
• Avoid outdoors at dusk and dawn;
• Clean the yard — mosquitoes breed in standing water.
“(West Nile) is throughout the province but moreso the southern region,” says Dr. Strong. “We want to make sure everybody is being vigilant because the risk is there throughout the summer.”
The mosquitoes are active until temperatures reach the freezing mark this fall.
Most people with WNv show no symptoms at all; 15 to 20 per cent suffer flu-like symptoms associated with West Nile non-neurological syndrome such as body aches and fatigue and less than one per cent (mainly older people) develop the more serious West Nile neurological syndrome.
As of Aug. 11, 34 human cases of WNv infection have been reported in Canada (not including Alberta’s first case).
According to the Saskatchewan government’s website, there have been no human cases of WNv this year in that province, but it has been found in one horse and four mosquito pools have tested positive for the virus.
 In 2011 there were no human cases in Alberta, but 102 cases of West Nile virus infection reported in Canada. In 2007, Saskatchewan had the highest number of human cases in Canada, with 1,456 including 113 cases of the severe West Nile Neurological Syndrome while Alberta recorded its highest human numbers that year also with 320.
Anyone wanting more information about the West Nile virus can visit www.fightthebite.info or phone Health Link Alberta, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toll-free at 1-866-408-5465 (LINK).

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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