First West Nile Virus case detected in Saskatchewan

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A regular blood donation screening has detected the first case of West Nile Virus in Saskatchewan.

An individual from the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region who was experiencing no symptoms was found to have West Nile while donating blood at a Canadian Blood Services clinic.

While this marks the first West Nile Virus case in Saskatchewan this year, provincial surveillance results have recorded no positive mosquito pools or West Nile Cases in horses.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health notes that conditions remain favourable for the development of both nuisance mosquitoes plus the Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, the carrier of West Nile Virus.

"Surveillance results show that Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are increasing slightly in some traps in southern Saskatchewan," Provincial West Nile Virus Co-ordinator Phil Curry said. "We caution the public that these mosquitoes will continue to be active over the next few weeks and some could potentially be infected with the virus."

Currently, the entire southern portion of the province is ranked as moderate for contacting west nile, with the mosquito species most closely associated with carrying the virus has been detected in numbers that warrant extra precautions.

The most current Saskatchewan West Nile and Culex Report highlights that Swift Current continues to boast the highest populations of mosquitoes. Nightly trap total show Swift Current is recording 30 trapped mosquitoes per night, outpacing both Estevan (23 per night) and Assiniboia (21.3 per night). Last week's totals placed Maple Creek as fourth in the rankings at 9.5 per night. On the other end of the scale, Moose Jaw is experiencing 2.7 per night, Saskatoon 1.9, Regina 0.3, and Prince Albert reported no trapped mosquitoes.

In neighbouring Manitoba, there have been two positive West Nile Virus cases detected through blood donations, plus 48 positive mosquito pools. In the United States there have been a reported 241 human cases and four deaths from West Nile Virus.

With the risk of the virus on the rise, people are encouraged to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes bites, especially at dusk and dawn when Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are most active.

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

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.

To reduce the 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.

Updated Surveillance Results, Risk Maps and Weekly West Nile and Culex Reports are posted every Friday on the Ministry of Health's website at http://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 at Healthline Online www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.

Organizations: Canadian Blood Services, Saskatchewan Ministry of Health

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Swift Current, Southern Saskatchewan Maple Creek Moose Jaw Saskatoon Manitoba

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