Alberta Health Services is reminding Albertans to take precautions to protect themselves against West Nile virus infection.
Some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus, so it’s best to avoid being bitten at all.
West Nile virus was first confirmed in Alberta in 2003. Between 2003 to 2021, a total of 541 cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in Alberta, many of which were acquired in Alberta and not travel-related.
After being bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, people can develop West Nile non-neurological syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever), or the more serious West Nile neurological syndrome.
Symptoms of non-neurological syndrome can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headache. For people who develop neurological syndrome, symptoms can be more severe, and include tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.
Out of Alberta’s 541 West Nile cases, a total of 460 were non-neurological syndrome.
To minimize the risk of mosquito bites Albertans are encouraged to take the following steps whenever participating in outdoor activities, or even just relaxing outside:
• Wear a long-sleeved, light-coloured shirt, pants and a hat.
• Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
• Use a Health Canada-approved insect repellant (e.g., products containing DEET or Icaridin) and follow the product label instructions.
When considering using products containing DEET:
• Do not use an insect repellent containing DEET for infants younger than six months old. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib or stroller, and try not to be outside when insect activity is high.
• For children six months to two years old, use insect repellent only when there’s a high risk of insect bites that can spread infections and diseases. Do not use more than once a day.
• For children over two years old, you can use insect repellent up to three times a day.
• Wash off DEET with soap and water once back inside and away from the mosquito area.
• Sunscreen and insect repellent can be used together, but sunscreen should go on first.
For more information on insect repellants, visit Personal Insect repellents – Canada.ca
Albertans can learn more about West Nile virus and ways to keep safe by visiting www.fightthebite.info or calling Health Link at 811.