AHS Wellness News: Fight the Bite

ns-west-nile-2012Summer has arrived in Alberta, and with it: long days, warm nights and… mosquito bites? Not so fast!

Much like you protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful UVA and UVB rays, Alberta Health Services (AHS) reminds you to make a summer habit of protecting yourself and your loved ones from mosquito bites, and their potentially severe health consequences.

“With exposure to mosquitoes comes risk of West Nile virus,” says Dr. Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health, AHS. “Because some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus, it’s important to avoid being bitten at all.”

Whether gardening, golfing, fishing, travelling or even just relaxing outdoors, all Albertans should take these simple steps to prevent bites and protect themselves from West Nile virus:

insect repellent• Wear a long-sleeved, light-colored shirt, pants, and a hat.

• Use insect repellent with DEET.

• Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

“These steps can make it harder for mosquitoes to find you, and remember: if mosquitoes can’t find you, they can’t bite you,” says Dr. Predy.

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 those individuals who do develop Neurological Syndrome, symptoms can be much more severe, including tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.

In 2013, 21 cases of West Nile virus infection were confirmed in Albertan residents. Of the 21 cases, four were confirmed as Neurological Syndrome, and one case was fatal. 19 of the 21 cases were acquired within Alberta, exemplifying the very real and potentially severe risk of illness across the province.

To learn more about West Nile virus and reducing your risk, visit the website or call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465 (LINK).