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First West Nile virus case prompts mosquito warning

Fort Macleod and district residents are urged to take precautions to prevent West Nile virus.
A confirmed case of West Nile virus south of Calgary has Alberta Health Services urging people to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.
“The risk is throughout the province and increases in the south,” south zone medical officer of health Dr. David Strong said. “We want to make sure everyone is being vigilant.”
When outdoors, people should use repellent containing Deet and wear long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing and a hat.
People are also advised to stay away from standing water where mosquitoes breed and to avoid being out in the early morning and at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
“The mosquitoes are prevalent throughout the province,” Strong said last week in a news conference. “The risk (of West Nile) is always going to be present.”
Strong refused to provide information about the West Nile case except to say the woman is 65 years old and has West Nile Non-Neurological Syndrome.
Strong declined to name the community in which that person lives.
“Pinpointing the particular town is probably giving the wrong message that only certain populations are at risk,” Strong said.
Strong told reporters West Nile is well-established in Alberta and its prevalence depends on the weather.
There have been 34 documented cases this year of West Nile virus in Canada, the majority of which were in Ontario.
The case confirmed last week was the first one in Alberta. There were no cases of West Nile virus in 2011 in Alberta.
After being bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, humans can develop West Nile Non-Neurological Syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) and, occasionally, the more serious West Nile Neurological Syndrome.
Individuals who develop Non-Neurological Syndrome may experience fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headache.
The small number of individuals who develop neurological syndrome may experience tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.
Strong cautioned against complacency when it comes to the West Nile virus.
“West Nile virus infection can cause severe illness with debilitating, lifelong effects, particularly in older adults,” Strong said. “I urge all Albertans to continue to fight the bite.”
For more information and tips, Albertans can visit or call Health Link Alberta, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toll-free at 1-866-408-5465.

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