BE AWARE- This year Albertans are urged to be more aware of mosquitoes and to protect themselves from getting the West Nile virus.

Central Albertans to be more aware of mosquitoes

There are some simple preventative measures that are being recommended to Albertans to protect themselves from West Nile virus this summer.

“The last few summers have seen very few confirmed cases of West Nile, which is a positive thing,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services (AHS).

However, said Predy, Albertans still need to remain vigilant about protecting themselves from the potential spread of the virus through mosquitoes.

Some of the ways that Albertans can go about preventing this virus is by wearing long sleeves when in grassy areas, wearing bug spray and using netted tents while camping.

Symptoms of the most common form of West Nile virus (non-neurological syndrome) include fever, chill, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, possible rash or swollen glands and headache.

However, many people never experience any of these symptoms. So it is important to avoid bug bites when possible.

Dr. Digby Horne, medical officer of health for the Central Zone of AHS said that some of the ways people can avoid bug bites around home is to remove sources of stagnant water.

“This may include clearing eaves troughs, covering rain barrels with netting, and changing the water in bird baths every seven days,” said Horne.

He adds repellents with DEET in them are important as well as wearing full pants and socks.

The spread of the virus is reliant on the activity of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, which are most active in July and August. Their travel is determined by the weather and in past years has been limited because of the lack of consistent heat.

Last year there were five confirmed cases of West Nile in Canada, which included one in Alberta that was non-neurological.

“In Red Deer we already know there are lots of mosquitoes. They are out heavily in early mornings and at dusk,” said Horne.

Horne pointed out that the group of people aged 50 and over are at the highest risk of contracting West Nile virus, but made sure to state that it can happen to anybody.

Symptoms don’t show up in about 80% of infected patients, while 20% suffer from the non-neurological symptoms. Only one in every 150 patients has been seen with the neurological form of the virus.

“If somebody has symptoms, go to a doctor to get assessed,” said Horne.

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