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Protect against West Nile Virus

Simple precautions reduce risk of West Nile virus infection
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West Nile Virus is always a concern when mosquitoes are about. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

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,” said Dr. Christopher Sikora, Medical Officer of Health – Edmonton 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 repellent (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 repellents, visit Personal Insect repellents - Canada.ca  

“These steps can make it harder for mosquitoes to find you. And remember: if mosquitoes can’t find you, they can’t bite you,” said Dr. Sikora.

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.fightthebite.info or calling Health Link at 811.