The cold and wet weather experienced at the beginning of the summer has led to an influx of mosquitoes in Alberta.
With an increase in the annoying insects comes the increased risk of mosquito-born illness, such as the West Nile Virus.
Alberta Health Services is urging Albertans to take precautions when spending time outside this summer.
Dr. Mohammed Mosli, medical officer of health for the Central Zone, says exposure to mosquitoes comes with the risk of the virus.
“Because some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus, it’s important to avoid being bitten at all,” Dr. Mosli said in a press release.
The high level of rain followed by stretches of warm weather is the perfect incubator for the buzzing pests to grow and multiply.
Many species of the insect lay their eggs in bodies of water, such as lakes or puddles. Each species of mosquito picks a body of water depending on “ecological adaptions.”
It is because some mosquitoes are able to breed in various different locations, they are more likely to pick up pathogens and pass them along to their host.
Humidity, temperature and precipitation present the favourable conditions – known as transmission seasonability – for mosquitoes to transmit diseased to their host.
From now until the end of August Albertans are at a higher risk of contracting West Nile.
Alberta Health Services recommends residents protect themselves during the summer, and reduce the risk of contracting West Nile.
AHS’s advice includes:
• Wear a long-sleeved, light-colored shirt, pants, and a hat.
• Use an approved insect repellant (e.g. products containing DEET or Icaridin).
• 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,” said Dr. Mosli.
Humans can develop West Nile non-neurological syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) or the more serious West Nile neurological syndrome if bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus.
Symptoms of non-neurological syndrome can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headache.
Symptoms of neurological syndrome can be more severe, including tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.
According to Health Canada, says no mosquito, bird or horse has tested positive for the virus, though one bird from Ontario has.
According to the Government of Alberta’s West Nile Surveillance resource, two cases of West Nile Virus, displayed as non-neurological, have been found in Alberta this year. Both cases were acquired through out-of-country travel.
AHS says 532 cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in Alberta between 2003-2018. They continued to say a large percentage of those with the virus acquired it within the province, and were not travel-related.
In Alberta in 2018, 50 cases of the virus were recorded, three of which came from the Central Zone.