Prairie Post (West Edition)

Simple precaution­s reduce risk of West Nile virus infection


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

“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.”

Whenever engaging in outdoor activities, or even just relaxing outside, 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.

Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Use a Health Canada approved insect repellant (e.g. products containing DEET or Icaridin).

For infants younger than 6 months old, do not use an insect repellent containing DEET. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib or stroller.

For children 6 months to 2 years old, use insect repellent only when there’s a high risk of insect bites that can spread infections and diseases. Do not use more than once a day.

For children over 2 years old, you can use insect repellent up to 3 times a day.

For more informatio­n on insect repellants, visit Personal Insect repellents -

“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, people 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 people who develop neurologic­al syndrome, symptoms can be more severe, including tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciou­sness, paralysis and even death.

From 2003 to 2018, 532 cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in Alberta, many of which were acquired here in the province and not travel-related. Of all of these cases, 458 were non-neurologic­al syndrome.

Albertans can learn more about West Nile virus and ways to keep safe by visiting www.fightthebi­ or calling Health Link at 811.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsibl­e for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainabl­e for all Albertans.

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