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Avoiding West Nile this summer

July 23, 2019

With camping season in full swing, Alberta Health Services is reminding Albertans to take precautions and be aware of the West Nile virus. West Nile is a virus infection that was first detected in Uganda in 1937. It is transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes who have bitten birds affected by the virus. Even though there have been no reported cases so far this season the AHS wants you to protect yourself. 

“With exposure to mosquitoes comes risk of West Nile virus,” says Dr. Vivien Suttorp, Medical Officer of Health, South Zone. “Because some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus, it’s important to avoid being bitten at all.” Humans can develop West Nile non-neurological syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) or the more serious West Nile neurological syndrome, and a full list of symptoms can be found on the Government of Canada website provided below. 

AHS suggests a few simple steps to avoid bites, including wearing light coloured, full-coverage clothing, and using DEET or Icaridin mosquito spray for adults. They suggest using the product percentage recommendations for use of repellent on children. “No serious illness has been linked to the use of DEET in children when used according to the product recommendations. In Canada, experts recommend that only those repellents containing up to 10% DEET be used on children younger than 12 years old.” More information and full recommendations on this can be found at https://bit.ly/244ILNX. For babies under six months old, they also suggest full coverage and no use of repellent. 

Finally, they suggest avoiding the outdoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. If you are, however, spending your weeks in a tent or around a campfire, remember your repellent and keep covered. 

History of West Nile Virus: www.albertahealthservices.ca/info/Page15419.aspx

Government of Canada Website: www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/west-nile-virus/symptoms-west-nile-virus.htm

Insect Repellents: myhealth.alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=uf4815