West Nile risk highest now

Nathan Liewicki
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Health officials encourage precautions be taken

West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes are on the rise across Southern Saskatchewan.

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

Last week the health ministry reminded Saskatchewanians to continue to take precautions against WNV, which Culex tarsalis mosquitoes carry. On Tuesday, the Times-Herald spoke with Dr. Mark Vooght, the chief medical officer for the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) about WNV in our region.

“I just had a look at recent mosquito trapping results,” he said. “I saw that in some of the traps, especially down south in our health region, the Culex tarsalis in some of the traps had increased quite a bit … but there’s no positive mosquitoes in those pools.”

Of the trapped mosquitoes collected in the FHHR, Dr. Vooght noted that – as of last week – not all of them are Culex tarsalis. The health regions are expected to receive an update on mosquito pools by Wednesday.

As of July 31, WNV risk in the FHHR, like much of the mixed-grass prairie areas in southern parts of the province, is moderate. This is a result of increased populations of Culex tarsalis, as well as the recent hot and humid weather we have experienced for the past two weeks.

According to information on the ministry’s website, late July and early August have historically been the highest risk period for WNV, which Dr. Vooght agreed is true.

Along with a higher risk for contracting WNV at this time, the rare but potentially fatal WNV neuroinvasive disease can also be contracted.

At this time, however, Dr. Vooght said there aren’t any “severe cases” of WNV in Saskatchewan.

“If you don’t take the precautions then there is a modest possibility of being infected,” said Dr. Vooght. “In other words, if there are positive mosquito pools, not putting on mosquito spray, or wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, then there's a chance you could get bitten.”

In Moose Jaw, he said mosquito numbers have dropped off, but it will not be until the temperatures drop below 15 C that the mosquito population in and around the Friendly City will begin to decline – likely in mid-late September.

If you do contract WNV, the symptoms you might experience include a fever, headaches and body aches.

If you are concerned about your symptoms, the ministry recommends contacting a health professional or calling the HealthLine at 811.

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

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: West Nile, Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw Friendly

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