Friday, June 27, 2014

Albertans urged to protect themselves from West Nile virus

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding Albertans to take precautions necessary to protect themselves against West Nile virus infection this summer.

“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.”

Whether gardening, golfing, fishing, travelling or even just relaxing outdoors, all Albertans should take these simple steps to prevent bites and protect themselves from West Nile virus:
  • Wear a long-sleeved, light-colored shirt, pants, and a hat.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET.
  • Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. 

“These steps can make it harder for mosquitoes to find you, and remember: if mosquitoes can’t find you, they can’t bite you,” says Dr. Suttorp.

After being bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, humans can develop West Nile Non-Neurological Syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) or the more serious West Nile Neurological Syndrome.

Symptoms of Non-Neurological Syndrome can be uncomfortable, including fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headache. For those individuals who do develop Neurological Syndrome, symptoms can be much more severe, including tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.

In 2013, 21 cases of West Nile virus infection were confirmed in Albertan residents. Of the 21 cases, four were confirmed as Neurological Syndrome, and one case fatal. Nineteen of the 21 cases were acquired within Alberta, exemplifying the real and potentially severe risk of illness across the province.

Albertans are encouraged to learn more about West Nile virus and the precautions necessary to reduce risk at or by calling Health Link Alberta at 1.866.408.5465 (LINK).

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