West Nile Virus precautions recommended

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Pesky summer mosquito populations are on the rise and so are concerns over the start of West Nile Virus season.

Saskatchewan health officials have issued their annual reminder to take precautions and reduce your exposure to mosquitoes. Their caution is highlighted by the fact the second generation of Culex tarsalis are beginning to emerge in southern Saskatchewan, with higher populations expected to emerge over the next two weeks. Culex tarsalis is the mosquito linked to the spread of West Nile Virus.

The estimated risk level in the Southwest remains low according to the July 13 West Nile and Culex Report. Current 10 of the 13 health regions in the province are ranked low and the three most northern health regions are reported as minimal risk.

The most recent West Nile Virus Surveillance Results posted this morning lists no positive findings in mosquito traps or cases in horses or humans. However, they note total mosquito numbers are relatively high in a variety of creek and river valleys, including the Swift Current Creek.

The hot and dry conditions are responsible for the production of large numbers of nuisance mosquitoes occurring across the province.

"By all means, get out and enjoy the summer weather, but make sure you're taking the appropriate precautions to keep from getting bitten by mosquitoes that might carry West Nile," Provincial West Nile Virus Coordinator Phil Curry said.

To reduce your risk of exposure to West Nile Virus, the following precautions are recommended:

* using insect repellent containing DEET;

* wearing protective clothing;

* reducing time outdoors between dusk and dawn;

* regularly cleaning and emptying containers that can collect water such as bird baths and eavestroughs;

* clearing yards of old tires and other items that can collect water;

* ensuring rain barrels are covered with mosquito screening or are tightly sealed around the downspout;

* keeping screens on windows and doors in good repair; and

* keeping bushes, shrubs and lawns clear of overgrowth and debris.

Officials note that most people who become infected with West Nile Virus will experience either no symptoms or only mild illness such as fever, headaches and body aches.

"If you're bitten by a West Nile Virus-infected mosquito, there is still a small risk of serious neurological illness like inflammation of the brain and, in rare cases, death," Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Moira McKinnon said. "People who develop severe symptoms such as unusually severe headaches, persistent high fever or confusion, need to seek medical attention immediately."

Updated Surveillance Results, Risk Maps and Weekly "West Nile and Culex Reports" are posted every Friday morning on the Ministry of Health's website at www.health.gov.sk.ca/west-nile-virus. Additional information on protective measures and the West Nile Virus (symptoms, when to seek help) are available on the Ministry of Health's website and Healthline Online www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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