Peak season for West Nile virus infections is approaching

Saskatchewan residents are reminded to protect themselves against mosquito bites, as the peak season for West Nile Virus (WNV) approaches. 

There is increased risk of West Nile Virus in late July and August when the Culex tarsalis mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active and present in higher numbers.

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Currently, the risk is highest in southern Saskatchewan, where positive pools of mosquitoes have been found for the past two weeks. Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus experience no symptoms or have mild illness, with a fever, headaches and body aches.

“A small number of people develop a more serious illness called West Nile Virus neuroinvasive disease,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer. “If you develop serious symptoms like a persistent fever, confusion, neck stiffness or an unusually severe headache, seek medical attention immediately.”

Mosquitoes are most active on warm evenings and between dusk and dawn. People are asked to take precautions against getting bitten.  Use mosquito repellent, cover up and reduce the time spent outside when mosquitoes are most likely to bite. Maintain door and window screens so they fit tightly and are free of holes. 

Reduce mosquito habitat around the home and yard, such as standing water, old tires and other items that can collect water, bushes, shrubs, lawn overgrowth and debris.

So far this season, there has been one positive West Nile Virus lab test.  A positive lab test does not necessarily indicate a current WNV infection.

The West Nile virus was first identified in Saskatchewan in 2002. Significant outbreaks of WNV infection in humans occurred in 2003 and 2007. Between 2003 and 2017, there were 158 cases of WNV neuroinvasive disease; 17 resulted in death.

For up-to-date WNV risk levels, maps and surveillance results, visit the provincial government’s website. For advice on symptoms or when to seek care call HealthLine 811.

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