Interior Health warns of increased West Nile virus risk through August

Since first detected in B.C. in the summer of 2009, there have been five human cases of the virus

With August, comes mosquitos.

And mosquitos being out and about means we need to be careful and take precautions to prevent West Nile virus.

Interior Health said the mosquitos that are most likely to carry the virus are most active throughout August. West Nile is spread from infected birds to humans through mosquito bites.

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The virus was first detected in B.C. in 2009, with five human cases since that time. All cases were locally acquired in the Okanagan. Last year, the virus was detected in a bird and a horse in the East Kootenay area.

Despite the low risk of infection, Interior Health recommends you don’t handle wild birds with your bare hands (dead or alive). If a dead bird must be moved, precautions should be taken. Unusual clusters of dead birds can be reported to the BC Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Investigation at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).

Horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarian about equine vaccinations for West Nile virus.

The risk of serious illness coming from West Nile virus is low for most people, but the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are more at risk.

Interior Health lists the following ways to protect yourself and others from the virus:

  • Prevent mosquito breeding around your home. It doesn’t take much time or water for mosquitoes to develop from eggs into adults. Anything that can hold water can be a mosquito breeding area. Identify and remove potential breeding areas on your property – empty saucers under flowerpots; change water in birdbaths twice a week; unclog rain gutters; drain tarps, tires, and other debris where rainwater 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.
  • Install screens on windows. Screens will help prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn. This is the time of day the mosquitoes that can carry the virus are most active.
  • Wear protective clothing. If you are in an area with lots of mosquitoes, wear loose-fitting, light-coloured, full-length pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • 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 for those over six months of age when used according to the directions on the label. DEET-free products are available, but may not provide long-lasting protection. View the HealthLinkBC file on DEET for guidelines on how frequently to apply repellent.

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michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

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