Beyond Local: Albertans urged to protect against West Nile

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More people could have been infected with a less serious form of the illness and not realized or reported it, district spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said.

Zika and West Nile viruses are both transmitted by mosquitoes.

Summer is slowly coming to an end, but health officials say ticks and mosquitoes are not. In hot, dry weather, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus breed in stagnant water and multiply rapidly. Additionally, she said, Albertans should be using an approved insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin and could consider limiting the time they spend outside.

"It's important people be conscientious about self-protection whenever they're outside during the evening hours".

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"Our message to the public is that West Nile virus is here, but it is preventable", Dr. Joe Iser, the Health District's chief health officer, said in a statement. Last year, the deaths of 11 people were caused by West Nile virus, and it was detected in 217 people, 501 birds and 1,963 mosquito samples. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. "It seems to me in Coaldale in this case they did not understand fully, and it turned into a major calamity there".

While Albertans may be more concerned about West Nile risk when visiting other countries, Kennedy said most of the cases in the province over the past 15 years were not travel-related - the infection was contracted locally. Severe symptoms include high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, coma, paralysis, and possibly death.

"We know many people will be outside for this event, and we want to remind the public that personal protection against mosquitoes is critical in the prevention of West Nile virus", said District Manager Gary Goodman.

"We are doing a lot of investigations in the community to identify mosquito pools; to see where the mosquitos are growing and then deciding the measures to decrease that population", Leguen said.

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