Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding Albertans to take precautions to protect themselves against West Nile virus infection.
Some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus, so it’s best to avoid being bitten at all. Whenever participating in outdoor activities, or even just relaxing outside, Albertans can minimize the risk of bites and protect themselves from the West Nile virus by taking the following steps:
- Wear a long-sleeved, light-coloured shirt, pants and a hat.
- Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use a Health Canada-approved insect repellant (e.g., products containing DEET or Icaridin) and follow the product label instructions.
When considering using products containing DEET:
- For infants younger than six months old, do not use an insect repellent containing DEET. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib or stroller, and try not to be outside when insect activity is high.
- For children six months to two years old, use insect repellent only when there’s a high risk of insect bites that can spread infections and diseases. Do not use it more than once a day.
- For children over two years old, you can use insect repellent up to three times a day.
- Wash off DEET with soap and water once back inside and away from the mosquito area.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent can be used together, but sunscreen should go on first.
- For more information on insect repellants, visit Personal Insect repellents – Canada.ca
After being bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, people can develop West Nile non-neurological syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) or the more serious West Nile neurological syndrome. Symptoms of non-neurological syndrome can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headache. For people who develop neurological syndrome, symptoms can be more severe and include tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.
The first evidence of West Nile virus in Alberta was confirmed in 2003. From 2003 to 2021, 541 cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in Alberta, many of which were acquired here in the province and not travel-related. Of all these cases, 460 were non-neurological syndrome.
Albertans can learn more about West Nile virus and ways to keep safe by visiting www.fightthebite.info or calling Health Link at 811.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health support and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Our mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. Our current focus is on reducing emergency department wait times, improving EMS response times, increasing access to surgeries, and improving patient flow.