Reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus: Saskatchewan health officials

Saskatchewan health officials are warning the public to stay diligent as West Nile carrying mosquitoes become more active.

“Even though we’re seeing a low risk right now, we’re expecting to see that rise somewhat,” said Phil Curry, the provincial West Nile co-ordinator.

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    Culex tarsalis, the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, are active from mid-July to the end of August. The level of risk depends largely on the weather.

    While most who contract West Nile virus experience no symptoms, a strain of the virus can lead to serious illness.

    “A very small proportion of persons who are infected will come down with serious illness. Those symptoms will include severe headache, neck stiffness and there may be paralysis associated with that,” said Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer.

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    Since 2003, there have been 17 deaths and 157 severe neurological cases associated with the West Nile virus in the province.

    To reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus, use insect repellent, cover up and wear light-coloured clothing and avoid peak mosquito hours between dawn and dusk.

    Officials also say people should take action to reduce mosquito habitats:

    regularly clean and empty containers that can collect water such as bird baths and eavestroughs;clear yards of old tires and other items that can collect water;ensure rain barrels are covered with mosquito screening or are tightly sealed around the downspout; andmaintain door and window screens so they fit tightly and are free of holes.

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