Recent rainfall raises spectre of West Nile virus

Recent rain in Central Alberta may not have dampened summer festivities but it does make for ideal mosquito breeding grounds.

Recent rain in Central Alberta may not have dampened summer festivities but it does make for ideal mosquito breeding grounds.

More than just an itchy bother, mosquitoes can also carry strains of West Nile virus.

Although there are no reports of West Nile in the province, Alberta Health Services has issued information on how people should protect themselves after cases were detected in neighbouring provinces.

Alberta Health Services Central Zone Medical Officer Dr. Digby Horne said on Friday that there is a risk for cases in Alberta.

“I know that Canadian Blood Services recently identified cases in Ontario and Manitoba and I haven’t heard of any cases in Alberta at this time but theoretically the potential is there,” he said.

Culex tarsalis, the principal mosquito carrying the infection, typically has population peaks in the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August.

Horne said that no mosquito testing is done in Alberta, however, bird deaths may be investigated for West Nile and other illnesses.

First detected in Alberta 10 years ago, West Nile virus is believed to have originated in Africa. It made its way to North America by infected birds nesting on the East Coast. Over the last decade, the disease has gradually spread across the continent.

After being bitten by an infected mosquito, a person can become infected with West Nile Non-Neurological Syndrome. Symptoms include, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, rashes on the skin, swollen glands and headache.

In more serious cases, symptoms include tremors, drowsiness, confusion, difficulty swallowing, high fever and death.

This is why Alberta Health Services continues to remind the public about taking precautionary measures such as wearing mosquito repellent containing DEET and wearing long-sleeved, light-coloured shirts and pants. People should also consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

In 2011, 102 cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in Canada.

For more information, visit www.fightthebite.info or call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.

jjones@bprda.wpengine.com

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