West Nile virus precautions urged

Although West Nile virus showed up in the Okanagan Valley in 2009, the disease remains rare.

Although West Nile virus showed up in the Okanagan Valley in 2009, the disease remains rare.

Still, the Interior Health Authority is urging people to take measures to reduce the spread of the disease.

West Nile virus is spread from infected birds to people through mosquito bites.

Since 2009, three cases have been reported in the province, all in the Okanagan. Last year, there were no reported cases. “It’s not as great a concern as we had originally speculated,” said Kevin Touchet, manager of environmental health with the Interior Health Authority.

The disease has been more prevalent in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Washington State.

Touchet said the presence of the Rocky Mountains has kept the virus from moving west. The climate of the Okanagan Valley has also kept West Nile virus from spreading more quickly here.

About one in five of those who are bitten by an infected mosquito will show symptoms of the disease. Fewer than one in 100 will have serious problems from the disease.

Touchet said some prevention can begin at home, by getting rid of potential mosquito breeding grounds.

This includes draining stagnant pools of water, emptying water from wheelbarrows after a rain and cleaning out eaves or birdbaths where water tends to collect.

For those going to areas where mosquitoes are present, the Interior Heath Authority urges a few precautions.

o Use mosquito repellent. Products containing DEET are safe if the label precautions are followed.

o Wear protective clothing. Dark clothing tends to attract mosquitos. In areas with lots of mosquitoes, wear loose, full-fitting pants and long-sleeved shirts. Avoid using perfumes, soaps, hair care products and lotions with floral fragrances.

o Install mosquito screens on windows and consider staying inside between dusk and dawn and in the early evening.

o Prevent mosquito breeding around your home. Stagnant pools can be a big source of mosquitoes.

The province tests dead birds in the corvid family, including crows, ravens, magpies and jays, since these birds are more likely to die from West Nile Virus.

People can report dead corvid birds to the province. Visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control Dead Bird Reporting page at bccdc.ca/dis-cond/a-z/_w/WestNileVirus/Surveillance/WNvDeadBirdReporting.htm.

In addition, Interior Health traps mosquitoes at 14 sites in the Southern Interior and sends them to a provincial lab for testing.