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Precautions reduce risk of West Nile virus infection

Alberta Health Services reminds people to take precautions to protect themselves against West Nile virus infection.
“With exposure to mosquitoes comes risk of West Nile virus,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health for the 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, people should take these steps to prevent bites and protect themselves from West Nile virus:

  • Wear a long-sleeved, light-coloured shirt, pants, and a hat.
  • Use an approved insect repellent (products containing DEET or Icaridin).
  • For children younger than 12 years old, pay attention to the percentage of repellent based on age.

  • For babies less than six months old, do not use any insect repellent. Instead, protect them with full-coverage clothing and a hat.
  • Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • “These steps can make it harder for mosquitoes to find you,” Suttorp said. “And remember: if mosquitoes can’t find you, they can’t bite you.”
    After being bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, humans 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 in Alberta and not travel-related.
    Of all of these cases, 458 were non-neurological syndrome.
    Albertans can learn more about West Nile virus and the precautions necessary to reduce risk at or by calling Health Link at 811.