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Guard Against Mosquito Bites as West Nile Virus Season Approaches

July 12, 2013

Residents and visitors in Prairie North Health Region are urged to take precautions and protect themselves against mosquito bites, now that the prime season for West Nile virus (WNV) activity is here.

PNHR Medical Health Officer Dr. Brenda Cholin advises that warm weather in the northwest over the past couple of weeks and into next few weeks will result in an increase in the number of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes - the mosquito most likely to transmit WNV to humans.

“Although we have not seen any WNV activity so far this year in northwest Saskatchewan, I remind everyone that the situation could soon change. We are entering the time of greatest Culex tarsalis mosquito activity,” Cholin states. “Since WNV was first detected in humans in the province in 2003, most people in Saskatchewan who became infected with West Nile virus did so between mid-July and mid-August.”

Mosquitoes are trapped, counted and tested for WNV in locations across Saskatchewan beginning in June. While Culex tarsalis mosquito numbers are starting to increase in the southern part of Saskatchewan and are likely to appear in PNHR soon, so far, no mosquitoes tested in Prairie North or elsewhere in the province have been positive for the West Nile virus.

“Warm wet weather provides ideal conditions for the development of the Culex tarsalis mosquito, and I urge the public to take precautions,” says Cholin.

“You can protect yourself from mosquito bites by using insect repellent containing DEET, by wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when you are outside, and by staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active,” explains Cholin.

In addition to these personal precautions, people are urged to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes around their homes by:
          · regularly cleaning and emptying containers that can collect water, such as bird baths and eaves troughs;
          · clearing yards of old tires and other items that can collect water;
          · ensuring rain barrels are covered with mosquito screening or are tightly sealed around the downspout;
          · keeping screens on windows and doors in good repair; and
          · keeping bushes, shrubs and lawns clear of overgrowth and debris.

Cholin reminds the public that 80 per cent of people who become infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms. About 19 per cent of people will have an illness during which they will experience fever and headache, feel tired and achy, and may have a rash. This West Nile fever usually lasts about a week. Less than one per cent of people will suffer a more severe illness in which the infection causes swelling and inflammation of the brain.

Updated Surveillance Results, Risk Maps and Weekly “West Nile and Culex Reports” are posted every Friday on the Ministry of Health's website at www.health.gov.sk.ca/west-nile-virus.Additional information on protective measures and West Nile Virus symptoms, when to seek help, etc. are available on the Ministry of Health's website and Healthline Online www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Linda Lewis, Communications Officer

For a print copy of the news release, click here.

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