MEDICINE HAT, AB — Alberta Health Services is reminding residents to be aware of the risk of West Nile virus.
July is considered the start to the season in Alberta, and the South Zone, which includes Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, typically leads the province in the number of confirmed cases of the disease.
“The first area in most years is the southeast, either Brooks or Medicine Hat,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health for the South Zone, over the phone from Lethbridge. “That’s been consistent over many, many years.”
Suttorp adds the warmer weather in the South Zone compared to other parts of the province is the reason there are more West Nile cases reported here compared to the rest of Alberta.
West Nile virus is spread through the bites of mosquitoes that have contracted the disease. If bitten, residents can develop West Nile non-neurological syndrome, or West Nile neurological syndrome, which is more serious.
Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and headache, while those with neurological syndrome can show serious symptoms, including tremors, drowsiness and paralysis.
Suttorp says wearing protective clothing and appropriate insect repellent will help reduce your chances of contracting West Nile virus. People are also advised to stay indoors at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
She adds removing any standing water near your home will also help protect you and your family.
“This is the area where mosquitoes will lay their eggs and propagate,” Suttorp said. “Mosquitoes don’t travel very far from their breeding grounds, so if you don’t have stagnant water around your house, there’s less likelihood of mosquitoes, and mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, to be impacting you and your family.”
Last year, a total of seven West Nile cases were found in Alberta, according to Alberta Health.
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