Cycle of West Nile concerns officials in Saskatchewan
By Natalie Geddes
Five years after Saskatchewan was hit with an outbreak of West Nile Virus, health officials say there is heightened concern.
Phil Curry is the provincial West Nile Virus coordinator. He keeps a mosquito trap in his own south Regina backyard.
Lately the trap has caught roughly 50 mosquitoes a night, but he says there’s been times this summer the trap’s held nearly 300. But when it comes to West Nile, it’s not about how many he catches, it’s about who.
Culex tarsals is the breed that can carry the illness and it’s starting to show up in Saskatchewan. Its arrival marks a growing concern that conditions are ripe for the perfect swarm.
Just as the name of the virus suggest, it’s one for balmy temperatures and that's exactly what the weather man has promised this year.
There is also the added concern with timing. Dr. Moira McKinnon is Saskatchewan’s chief health medical officer.
“We’re wary” she says, “West Nile Virus goes in cycles.
“They tend to have a lapse for a few years and than come back quite strongly in four, five year cycles”.
The last outbreak was in 2007, exactly five years ago. In this province more than 1400 people were diagnosed that year with 113 becoming severely ill. Six died.
At this point the risk is low. The mosquito populations hasn't tested positive for the West Nile. Neighbouring provinces are also yet to identify the virus in their province, but it has been found on the other side of the border in South Dakota.
For those new to the province or who don't remember what to look out for, West Nile only shows symptoms in 20 per cent of the people it infects.
The infected person will feel mild headaches, fever and aches.
Less than one per cent of people will have prolonged symptoms along with tingling or numbness in their limbs. The rare case can also turn deadly.
The message right now is to try and avoid mosquitoes as best you can, wear bug repellent and light coloured clothing. In Regina, it's asked everyone check for standing water where the blood suckers like to lay their eggs.
“The next three weeks will be very important in determining what the rest of the summer is going to be like,” said Curry.
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