OTTAWA, June 2, 2014 /CNW/ -
Why you should take note
Warmer weather is here and it's more important than ever to protect
yourself from pesky mosquito bites. Not only are bites uncomfortable,
but the mosquito that bites you may also give you West Nile virus.
Although the chances of contracting West Nile virus are generally low,
there are still risks. There are simple and effective measures you can
take to reduce these risks.
As you prepare to spend time outdoors, learn more about West Nile virus
and how to prevent it.
How do you get West Nile virus?
West Nile virus is mainly transmitted to people through the bite of an infected
mosquito. It can affect all age groups.
Risk to Canadians
For most Canadians, the risk of getting infected is usually low because
relatively few mosquitoes are infected with West Nile virus.
The risk of being infected can fluctuate from year to year. Overall, the
risk is greatest during the warm summer months: "mosquito season". In
Canada, this can start as early as mid-April and last until the first
hard frost in late September or October. The majority of human
infections occur between July and early September.
Human cases of West Nile virus infection have been reported in parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan,
Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. If you're planning to travel and spend
time outdoors in these, or any other areas of Canada, remember to
protect yourself against mosquito bites.
Although there have been cases reported from Yukon Territory, New
Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, these have all been
related to travel outside these jurisdictions.
The majority of people infected with West Nile virus (approximately
70-80 per cent) have no symptoms and do not feel sick. When an
infection does cause mild illness symptoms will usually appear within
Mild symptoms may include:
swollen lymph glands
While anyone infected with West Nile virus can be at risk of developing
more severe symptoms and health effects, such as meningitis and
encephalitis, the elderly and those with underlying conditions and/or
weaker immune systems are at greater risk. Fewer than 1 per cent of
people infected with the virus will develop severe symptoms and health
Symptoms of severe illness may include:
rapid onset of severe headache
loss of consciousness
lack of coordination
Some patients with severe illness could experience a variety of health
effects for many months to years after their initial illness.
See your healthcare professional right away if you experience any of
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for West Nile virus.
Serious cases are treated with supportive therapies (treatments to help
ease symptoms). For example, these can include intravenous fluids,
respiratory support, and prevention of secondary infections. These may
require hospital or nursing care.
How to protect yourself
Canadians are encouraged to spend time outdoors and be active. You can
protect yourself against mosquito bites and West Nile virus by
following these simple measures:
use insect repellent that contains DEET* or Icaridin** or other approved
ingredients (always read and follow the directions on the insect
repellent container, especially when using on young children)
wear light-coloured clothing, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants
make sure screen doors and windows are in good repair
get rid of as much standing water as you can from around your home and
property, because mosquitoes need water to breed
*DEET has been safely used in North America for more than 55 years.
Insect repellents containing DEET are safe when used as directed.
** In 2012, Health Canada registered Icaridin as a safe and effective insect repellent against certain pests, such as
mosquitoes and ticks, when used as directed.
What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing
The Public Health Agency of Canada works with provincial and territorial
partners, Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch,
Canadian blood operators (Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec), the
Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, and the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency on a number of fronts to address West Nile virus,
coordinating a national surveillance system and disseminating surveillance information on a weekly basis during the West Nile virus season
developing and updating guidelines for healthcare professionals
educating the public on protection from the virus
providing information on West Nile virus to health care professionals
exchanging Canadian West Nile virus knowledge with international
partners in a timely manner, and monitoring the epidemiological changes
of the disease globally.
SOURCE: Public Health Agency of Canada
For further information:
Public Health Agency of Canada