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West Nile Virus

At this time of year it is wise to take precautions to protect you and your family from West Nile Virus. 

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause disease in anyone. It is transmitted to people through mosquito bites.

Protect your family

Though the chance of contracting West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite is small, you should still protect yourself and loved ones against mosquito bites … even if you are only going out for a minute or two.

  • Wear loose, light-coloured long pants and long-sleeved shirts or blouses. Dark colours attract mosquitoes.
  • Do not wear perfume, aftershave, cologne or other scented products. Mosquitoes love them.
  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET according to directions on the container. The higher the percentage of DEET, the longer the repellent will be effective.
  • Make certain that you apply the repellent to your neck, ankles and behind your ears, where skin is particularly thin and tender.
  • Wash repellent off with soap and water when you return indoors.
  • Cover babies in cribs, strollers or carriers with insect netting. Do not use DEET on babies under 6 months old.
  • Avoid going out when mosquitoes are most active - at dawn and dusk.
  • Keep weeds and long grass trimmed to reduce mosquito populations since that’s where they hide out to keep cool on hot summer days.

Protecting pets

Though cats and dogs can be infected with the West Nile Virus, it's unlikely that they will show even the flu-like symptoms. They can be protected with repellents formulated for pets. Check your local pet supply company or veterinarian. Do not use DEET-based products, which pets may lick off and ingest.

Think you may have West Nile Virus?

It's estimated that less than 1% of mosquitoes in an affected area will carry the WNV. If you do contract WNV, you may have no symptoms at all since the majority - 80 to 99% - will have no symptoms at all. A small percentage of infected people will get flu-like symptoms.

However in some cases, WNV will progresses to encephalitis. Severe illness usually occurs only in the elderly, very young or in people with weakened immune systems. Encephalitis caused by the virus can lead to permanent neurological problems or death.

The early symptoms of West Nile Virus are the same as the symptoms of other common illnesses and may include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle weakness

Dr. Tania Diener, Medical Health Officer for the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region, says: "It's important that we keep West Nile Virus in perspective. Most people who are infected with the virus won't even know they have it. Others will get flu-like symptoms. Only a very few people will develop life-threatening or debilitating complications, such as encephalitis. We're suggesting that you exercise caution and protect yourself and your family … but don't let our Saskatchewan summer pass you by."

Diener suggests that anyone who feels they have the symptoms of WNV should see their doctor, particularly if the symptoms are getting worse.

For more information on West Nile Virus visit these Web sites: