West Nile risk low in Five Hills

Moose Jaw Times Herald - Editorial Staff
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Health officials advise residents to take precautions

They do not fly in swarms, although sometimes it sounds like they do. And when the weather warms up, packing a punch of humidity, it feels like they want to suck up a sample of your blood.

The culex tarsalis mosquito is "the best vector that there is" for carrying the West Nile Virus, according to Dr. Mark Vooght with the Five Hills Health Region.

Whether you’re in the backyard with your children, out for an evening walk with your dog, or on the golf course, mosquitoes are everywhere. We all shoo and try slapping them away.

But these aren’t just any mosquitoes. They are Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, some of which are carriers of West Nile Virus (WNV).

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health formally advised Saskatchewanians to take precautions against the Culex tarsalis, which are more prone to transmitting WNV to humans between mid-July and September.

Dr. Mark Vooght, the chief medical officer of the FHHR, told the Times-Herald that Culex tarsalis will be present in the region again this summer, “possibly in higher numbers than in the last three or four years.”

He was, however, quick to point out that it is always a gamble predicting the number of WNV-carrying Culex tarsalis caught in CDC mosquito traps.

Currently, the FHHR, like much of southern Saskatchewan, is under a low West Nile risk. This means the virus-carrying Culex tarsalis have been detected in the region, but in small numbers.

According to Dr. Vooght, pools of trapped mosquitoes infected with WNV will likely be felt in the southern parts of the FHHR first, and not for a couple of weeks.

“I would expect the first pools to be positive perhaps by the end of this month, but more especially as we get into August,” he said.

Among the symptoms people who become infected with West Nile experience are fever, headaches and body aches. The symptoms are also not immediate, warn health officials.

Although rare, some people have the potential to contract the more serious West Nile Virus neuroinvasive disease, which can lead to encephalitis.

Those most at risk are the elderly and young children.

Provincial West Nile Virus Co-ordinator Phil Curry says a prolonged hot and dry stretch in July and August may result in more infected Culex tarsalis this summer, but he warns anyone who plans to be outside and amongst mosquitoes to take precautions from being bitten.

To lessen the chance of exposure to mosquito bites, health officials encourage people to use appropriate insect repellent, cover up your skin and reduce the time you spend outdoors between dusk and dawn.

Keeping foliage clear of excessive growth, making sure there aren’t holes in windows and doors, and clearing areas of your yard that could collect water are also things health officials urge people to do to avoid contracting WNV.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.

Organizations: West Nile Virus Co, Ministry of Health

Geographic location: Nile, Southern Saskatchewan

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