As summer weather is now starting to warm up in the Weyburn region, the threat of West Nile virus will begin to be a risk to area residents as well.
According to Sask. Health officials, the risk typically peaks between mid-July and September, and is transmitted through the bite of infected Culex tarsalis mosquitoes.
The City of Weyburn has two traps set up to collect mosquitoes, with the samples sent in to Sask. Health; one trap is at the Leisure Centre, and the other is at Hillcrest Cemetery; in addition, the province has a trap at the Community Health Services building on the former Souris Valley grounds.
The surveillance results from the week of July 12 show no infected pools have been found so far this year, but with heat increasing, the development of this species will increase from now into August.
“The number of infected Culex tarsalis mosquitoes may rise quickly if we get prolonged hot, dry weather in July and August,” said Phil Curry, provincial coordinator for the West Nile Virus program. “If you plan to be outside when mosquitoes are active, take precautions to protect yourself from bites.”
People are reminded to take precautions to protect themselves against the virus throughout the summer. Those enjoying the outdoors in parks, recreational venues, campgrounds and sporting events need to take precautions, as do farmers and others who work outside, especially in the evening.
Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus experience no immediate symptoms or have very mild illness (fever, headaches, body aches).
A small number of people develop more serious illness called West Nile Virus neuroinvasive disease, which includes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. The elderly and people with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of developing the severe form of West Nile infection.
“Most West Nile infections usually improve on their own, so there is no need to seek medical attention or to get laboratory tests,” said Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer.
“However, if you develop serious symptoms such as severe headaches, persistent high fever with stiff neck, confusion, seizures or paralysis, see a health care provider immediately,” she added.
The following preventative measures are recommended to minimize exposure to mosquito bites:
• Use appropriate insect repellent with DEET when outdoors;
• Cover up; wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, long-sleeved tops and long pants when outdoors;
• Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn when Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are most active.
Around the home, people are also encouraged to clear yards of refuse items that collect water, including eavestroughs and bird baths, pails, old tires and so on; keep bushes and shrubs clear of overgrowth and debris; and make doors and window screens fit tightly and are free of holes.