West Nile Virus (WNV) was first detected in Saskatchewan about 20 years ago, and while the risk of contracting the virus remains low, reducing your exposure to mosquitoes is still a good idea.
The main species that carries WNV in Saskatchewan is Culex tarsalis. Since 2007, West Nile cases in Saskatchewan have declined drastically, with only one human case in 2021 and no fatalities due to the mosquito-borne virus since 2018.
July, August and early September are when mosquitos are most active, so the risk is higher during these summer months.
Minimizing your exposure to bites is the best way to protect yourself against West Nile Virus.
Some ways to do that include:
Use insect repellent when outside. Always read and follow the label directions for use for any repellent.
Cover up. Wear light coloured, loose fitting, long-sleeved tops and long pants when outdoors.
Reducing the amount of time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn. The peak mosquito hours are around dusk and dawn, but Culex mosquitoes, the mosquitoes that transmit WNV, will also bite during the night.
Other ways to protect yourself include making changes to the environment around you and reducing mosquito habitats.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Clean and regularly empty containers that can collect water such as bird baths and eaves troughs.
Cover rain barrels with mosquito screening or tightly seal them. Check door and window screens, ensuring they fit tightly and are free of holes.
Cut the grass around your home.
Keep bushes, shrubs, and lawns clear of overgrowth and debris.
The majority of those infected with the virus experience no symptoms and do not get sick.
Approximately 20 per cent of people who become infected with West Nile Virus will develop a fever and other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, or rash. Most people with this type of illness recover completely. Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
Less than 1 per cent of people infected with the virus will develop a more serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, called WNV neuroinvasive disease. Symptoms of WNV neuroinvasive disease can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.
Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10 per cent of people who develop neurologic infections due to WNV will die.
Contact your health professional or call HealthLine at 811 if you suspect you have contracted WNV.