If you hear a buzzing sound - be careful West Nile Virus is here!

By Contributor
June 16th, 2010

West Nile virus arrived in BC in 2009, so Interior Health is reminding residents to take extra precautions against mosquito bites this summer. In 2009, there were two residents of the Interior who contracted West Nile virus in the south Okanagan. Several mosquito traps confirmed the presence of the virus in the south Okanagan.  Three horses from the Okanagan and south Fraser Valley were also found with the disease.  A third resident of the Interior contracted the disease while travelling outside the province.   Each of the other Western Canadian provinces reported similar numbers of cases in 2009.  The North Western United States reported a combined human case count of 93 human cases in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.  Interior Health is continuing to collect mosquitoes for testing to detect the virus through the 2010 summer season.  IH reminds residents that establishing a routine at home to reduce mosquito bites will help protect them while travelling outside of BC this summer.  West Nile virus infection is a disease that primarily resides in birds, and can be spread from birds to humans by infected mosquitoes. About 20% of infected people may experience mild to severe flu-like symptoms, and a small number of people (less than 1% of those infected) may develop a serious neurological disease. The best protection against West Nile Virus is to avoid mosquito bites, and reduce mosquito breeding areas. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from West Nile virus:

  • Use mosquito repellent – Apply mosquito repellent to areas of exposed skin. Check the product label for instructions on proper use.  Repellents containing DEET are safe if the label precautions are followed.  DEET-free products are available, but may not provide as long-lasting protection. View the HealthFile on DEET (link below) for guidelines on how frequently you should apply repellant, as recommendations change depending on age;
  • Wear protective clothing – Avoid dark clothing, as it tends to attract mosquitoes. If you are in an area with lots of mosquitoes, wear loose fitting, full-length pants and a long-sleeved shirt to keep mosquitoes from biting. Mosquitoes that can carry WNv are most active at dusk and at dawn. Avoid using floral fragrances such as perfumes, soaps, hair care products, and lotions;
  • Install mosquito screens on windows – Consider staying indoors between dusk and dawn and in the early evening;
  • Prevent mosquito breeding around your home -Anything that can hold water is a likely mosquito breeding area. Try to identify and remove these areas on your property. A few things to do include: empty saucers under flowerpots; change water in bird baths twice a week; unclog rain gutters; drain tarps, tires, and other debris where rain water may collect; and install a pump in ornamental ponds or stock them with fish. Stagnant backyard pools can be a big source of mosquitoes and should be maintained regularly to prevent mosquito growth.

 The BC Centre for Disease Control conducts a surveillance program for West Nile virus which includes testing of dead birds in the corvidfamily: crows, ravens, magpies and jays. These birds are more likely than others to die from West Nile virus. It also includes trapping and testing of mosquitoes from numerous sites in the province. Interior Health traps mosquitoes at 24 sites across the Southern Interior and sends them to the provincial lab for testing. Interior Health also works with local governments in efforts to control mosquito populations and coordinate planning. The public will be notified when the first positive mosquito, bird or human case are found in the province this year.

Categories: General