Woman catches serious form of West Nile

Alberta Health Services confirmed a Central Zone woman contracted the West Nile virus in the province.

Alberta Health Services confirmed a Central Zone woman contracted the West Nile virus in the province.

On Thursday, AHS reported two new human cases of the virus in southern Alberta.

That brings to seven the number of confirmed cases including a woman who lives in Central Zone which includes Stettler, Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer.

The woman, under 65 years of age, contracted the neurological syndrome, the more serious form. AHS said she did not travel outside of Alberta this summer.

Specific details about the individual West Nile virus cases are not released for confidentiality reasons.

On Aug. 31 a horse that had contracted the West Nile virus died at the Alberta Veterinary Centre. The horse was one of three horses affected in Alberta this year.

Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health, said the new cases indicate there is still a risk in the province and Albertans should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. She said Albertans are encouraged to wear insect repellent with DEET, wear long-sleeved, light-coloured shirts and pants, wear a hat, and consider staying indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

The human cases are Alberta’s first human cases of West Nile virus infection reported since 2010. The first case was reported on Aug. 21. Since then, AHS has provided weekly updates on the cases in the province.

The most recent human cases involve two women in southern Alberta, both under 65, who acquired the infection in the province. One contracted the neurological syndrome and the other contracted the non-neurological syndrome.

As of Sept. 1, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported 162 cases of West Nile infection in the country this year. In 2011, there were 102 cases reported.

The others from Calgary Zone, North Zone and South Zone have contracted non-neurological and non-neurological syndrome.

Individuals who develop non-neurological syndrome may experience fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headaches.

The small number of those who develop neurological syndrome may experience tremours, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.

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