Wednesday, 16 August 2017 14:01

West Nile Virus still a threat without taking precautions

Written by  Andrea Carol
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This year, don’t be in denial: prepare against West Nile.


Saskatchewan Health officials are reminding residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
The high temperatures have helped manage mosquito populations, however it is now peak West Nile Virus season.
The risk of contracting West Nile Virus is the greatest in late July and August when the mosquitos that carry the virus are the most active and present in higher numbers.
“This is typically when we see the highest risk for West Nile. The risk is actually higher now than it was a month ago. Mosquito populations don’t have a lot to do with it. This is very reminiscent of 2003,” states Phil Curry, Zoonotics diseases consultant and provincial West Nile Virus co-ordinator for the Sask. Ministry of Health.
“We want to remind people that although there are very few mosquitos out there, Culex Tarsalis, the mosquito that carries West Nile, is increasing both in numbers and the percentage of the total mosquito population out there.”
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. If one gets bitten by an infected mosquito, the person can contract West Nile or other mosquito-borne viruses.
“We have detected West Nile Virus in the southern parts of the province. We are advising people to take precautions when people are out and about. Particularly, in the evening when this particular mosquito becomes very active,” Curry explains. “It is active in temperatures above 15 degrees so warm evenings and throughout the night. It’s the mosquito that comes out around dusk. Right around the time you are finishing your baseball game or settling in around the campfire. It’s at that time you should really be covering up and avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes.”
The risk of humans acquiring West Nile Virus (WNV) in southwest Saskatchewan is now considered moderate. This means WNV positive mosquitoes have been detected in numbers where there is a moderate probability of being bitten by an infected mosquito. This rating depends on time of year, number and location of infected Culex Tarsalis mosquitoes and numbers of days with sufficient heat.
There have been two positive lab tests of West Nile Virus in Saskatchewan as of early August. Human infections are seasonal and are often not detected until later in the season.
“There are no confirmed cases however, there have been two lab tests that have tested positive in the south part of the province. It’s hotter and dryer down there. We often see infected mosquitos there first,” Curry adds.
Take precautions such as covering up. Wear light coloured, loose fitting, long-sleeved tops and long pants when outdoors.
Use DEET containing insect repellents (according to directions) on exposed skin. If one thinks exposure to the virus has occurred,  contact a health professional. If one develops symptoms such as severe headaches, persistent high fever with stiffness, confusion, seizures or paralysis, seek medical attention immediately.
Learn more online at:  https:// www.canada.ca/en/public-health/ services/diseases/west-nile-virus.html.

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