Residents of Saskatchewan are urged to take personal protection measures to guard against an expected increase in the number of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, the species that carries West Nile Virus.
The unprecedented wet weather throughout spring and summer has resulted in record flooding throughout much of Saskatchewan, particularly in the southeast. This has left vast amounts of shallow, standing water which provides ideal habitat for mosquitoes.
“The ability of mosquito control programs to control these numbers is limited when you have this much habitat around and it becomes difficult to treat all these water areas in a timely way before mosquitoes emerge,” Entomologist and Provincial West Nile Coordinator Phil Curry said. “Under these conditions, it’s even more important that people take measures to protect themselves such as using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing and reducing time outdoors between dusk and dawn.”
The risk from West Nile Virus varies from year to year and is dependent on the temperature and the amount of virus that is cycling in birds. Mid-July through August is typically a higher risk period for West Nile Virus, due to increased numbers of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes and warmer weather, which results in people spending more time outside.
“Most people infected with West Nile Virus will have no symptoms or only mild illness such as fever, headaches and body aches,” Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Moira McKinnon said.
“However, the virus can result in serious neurological illness such as inflammation of the brain, which can have long-term complications and even cause death.”
In addition to personal precautions, people are urged to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes around their homes by: regularly cleaning and emptying containers that can collect water such as bird baths and eaves troughs; clearing yards of old tires and other items that can collect water; ensuring rain barrels are covered with mosquito screening or are tightly sealed around the downspout; keeping screens on windows and doors in good repair, and keeping bushes, shrubs and lawns clear of overgrowth and debris.
Updated Surveillance Results, Risk Maps and Weekly “West Nile and Culex Reports” are posted every Friday on the Ministry of Health’s website at www.health.gov.sk.ca/west-nile-virus. Additional information on protective measures and the West Nile Virus are available on the Ministry of Health’s website and Healthline Online at www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.