Southwest residents are encouraged to continue taking precautions against exposure to West Nile Virus after the region has produced Saskatchewan leading mosquito count totals.
According to Saskatchewan Ministry of Health's Aug. 10 West Nile and Culex Report, current weather conditions continue to be favourable for the development of the Culex tarsalis, the mosquito associated with the spread of West Nile.
Swift Current leads the province in the number of Culex tarsalis mosquitos caught in monitoring traps at 30 a night. Estevan ranks second with 23 per night, Assiniboia has averaged 21.3 per night, while Kindersley counted 15 per night. The preliminary numbers for the current week show a steady increase in numbers, with Swift Current again leading the way at 50 mosquitos per night. Assiniboia boasts 44.5 per night. While the south has been impacted by high mosquito counts, Saskatchewan's four largest cities have not recorded similar totals with Moose Jaw highest at 2.9 per night, Saskatoon two per night, with Regina recording 0.2 per night and none in Prince Albert.
As of Aug. 10 there remained only a single positive human case of West Nile in the province, but in the past week there was one positive virus result in a horse and one West Nile positive mosquito pool located. In neighbouring Manitoba, there have been two positive West Nile cases determined in blood donors, along with 71 positive mosquito pools.
The West Nile and Culex Report notes "Although temperatures have moderated somewhat, the hot and humid weather has returned and with it the conditions that are conducive for Culex tarsalis activity and transmission of the virus. The cooler, showery weather reduces the WNV risk temporarily (less mosquito activity, more people covering up) but the risk can rise again very quickly with the return to warmer temperatures. Overall the WNV risk remains at moderate levels for all of southern Saskatchewan, but there can be localized pockets of infection in certain areas that can lead to a higher risk. Culex tarsalis populations appear to beginning to reach peak levels and some of these mosquitoes are infected with the virus. We will continue to see positive pools and increasing infection rates in the coming weeks as the current population of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes ages and continues to bite. If the hot weather continues in August, biting and egg laying activity will remain at high levels and fewer females may go into diapause (hibernation mode)."
"The most effective risk reduction measure that should be emphasized at this time is personal protection, particularly if people are spending a lot of time outdoors, in the back yard, at the farm or in a park. People should also remember that dusk is getting earlier at this time of year and that there is some risk now during the early evening hours or on cloudy afternoons when temperatures are warmer."
"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 in a press release earlier this summer.
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.