Albertans Encouraged To Prepare For West Nile Virus Season

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West Nile Virus

Albertans are encouraged to remember to take personal precautions again this summer to reduce their risk of acquiring West Nile virus infection.

"Wearing protective clothing and spraying with an insect repellent containing DEET is most effective," said Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health. "These are still the best preventative measures available."

Based on previous years, the numbers of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus will peak in July into early August, making this the most likely time for the virus to spread to animals and humans. Since Culex tarsalis mosquitoes thrive on heat, the abundance and spread of these mosquitoes will depend on how warm the spring gets.

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Although West Nile virus is typically confined to south eastern Alberta, "all Albertans, in particular seniors, golfers, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts need to guard against the virus," said Grimsrud.

In 2006, Alberta had 40 human cases of West Nile virus, two of which were contracted outside of the province. This year, the province will continue a surveillance program, looking for evidence of the virus in adult mosquitoes and humans, but not in birds.

"Albertans who find a dead bird do not need to bring it in for testing," explained Dr. Margo Pybus, Provincial Wildlife Disease Specialist with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. "It's likely that bird species exposed to the virus developed protective immunity so monitoring of dead birds no longer provides new information."

Horse owners and veterinarians are reminded that suspected or confirmed West Nile infections in horses are to be reported to the chief provincial veterinarian.

West Nile virus education, prevention and awareness initiatives are part of Premier Ed Stelmach's plan to improve Albertans' quality of life. Other priorities for the government are to govern with integrity and transparency, manage growth pressures, build a stronger Alberta and provide safe and secure communities.

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