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West Nile Virus in Saskatchewan – All You Need to Know

Reading time: 6 minutes

Can’t wait for summer and its pleasant sunshine, blue skies, and...mosquitoes? Well, neither can the mosquitoes or the West Nile Virus (WNV) they carry.

WNV is a real threat in Saskatchewan, especially when the warmer weather increases mosquito activity. However, with some knowledge and preventative measures, you can keep those itchy bites and the WNV at bay.

So, let’s get into it and talk about all things WNV. We'll break down what the virus is, how it spreads, and—most importantly—how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Mosquito biting on skin
Photo credits pexels.com

What Exactly Is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne illness that can be spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The main culprit in Saskatchewan, where the virus has been present since 2002, is the Culex tarsalis mosquito, a summer resident most of us would rather evict.

Here's the good news: most people who get WNV experience no symptoms at all! For others, it might feel like a mild case of the flu with a fever, headache, and body aches.

However, for a very small percentage of people, WNV can be serious, affecting the brain and nervous system. That's why prevention is important.

How WNV Makes Its Rounds in Saskatchewan

WNV enters our province through infected birds. Mosquitoes then pick up the virus when they feed on these birds, and they can then transmit it to us with a single bite.

The risk of getting bitten by an infected mosquito varies depending on the year, weather conditions, and the number of infected Culex tarsalis mosquitoes buzzing around, which is highest from July to early September.

Buzz Boss offers mosquito control to keep these disease-carrying insects away from your property.

Who’s Most at Risk? Knowing Your WNV Vulnerability

While anyone can be bitten by a mosquito carrying WNV, certain groups have a higher risk of developing serious illness:

  • People over 50: Age is a significant factor. Our immune systems weaken as we age, making us more susceptible to severe WNV complications.
  • Those with weaker immune systems: Folks with chronic illnesses, undergoing medical treatments that weaken the immune system, or who have had organ transplants are at higher risk.
  • Horses: Our equine friends can also contract WNV. If you have horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccination options.

Fight the Bite! Your Saskatchewan Summer Arsenal Against WNV

Now that we know the enemy (those pesky Culex tarsalis mosquitoes) let's arm ourselves with some effective defence strategies.

Here are some tips to keep those itchy bites and WNV at bay:

Dress for Success (Against Mosquitoes)

Channel your inner ninja and wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing that covers your arms and legs. Mosquitoes find certain people more attractive. You might want to dress less appealing.

Repellent is Your Secret Weapon

Pack insect repellent with DEET (no more than 30% for adults, 10% for children) in your summer survival kit. Apply it according to the directions; a little goes a long way in repelling those bloodthirsty bugs!

Avoid Twilight Plans as It’s Mosquito Time

Mosquitoes love the low-light conditions of dusk and dawn. Avoid areas with tall grass, a lot of vegetation, or clutter because that’s where they thrive the most.

Clean Up Your Yard

Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Empty those birdbaths, clean out rain gutters and turn over any containers that might collect rainwater. Tall grass and overgrown areas provide perfect hiding spots for mosquitoes. Keep your lawn trimmed and tidy to discourage them from setting up camp. Make your yard a mosquito-free zone!

Screen Time (The Good Kind)

Ensure your doors and windows have proper screens to keep mosquitoes from buzzing into your home. Even small holes can be an invitation for these unwelcome guests.

White mosquito protection mesh on beds outdoors
Photo credits unsplash.com

Bonus Tips for Saskatchewan's Outdoor Enthusiasts

If your summer adventures involve spending a lot of time outdoors, here are some extra steps you can take:

  • Stay Informed: The Saskatchewan government website provides updates on WNV risk levels in the province. Check it out regularly to stay informed.
  • Horse Owners – Take Action: As mentioned earlier, WNV can also infect horses. If you suspect your horse might be infected with WNV, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Camping with Confidence: When camping, choose well-drained campsites and sleep in tents with bug screens. Consider using mosquito nets for added protection.
  • Hikers, Take Note! Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when hiking, especially in wooded areas where mosquitoes might be lurking. Apply insect repellent to exposed skin and consider treating your clothing with permethrin following product instructions (important note: permethrin is for clothes only, not for direct application on the skin).

Permethrin can be particularly effective for hikers as it bonds to fabrics and provides long-lasting protection against mosquitoes and other insects.

Symptoms of WNV Infection: Knowing When to Seek Help

Most people infected with West Nile Virus experience no symptoms or very mild ones that go away on their own. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms following a mosquito bite, it's best to seek medical attention:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Muscle weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Coma

The symptoms can occur two days after a bite from an infected mosquito and last from a few days to several weeks, depending on your immune level.

The Long-Term Effects of WNV

Thankfully, most people with mild WNV symptoms recover completely within a few weeks or months. However, for a small percentage of people who experience severe WNV infection, there might be some long-term effects:

  • Persistent muscle weakness
  • Difficulty with balance or coordination
  • Problems with memory or concentration

Immunity to WNV: A Mystery Unsolved

While WNV has been present in Saskatchewan for several years, a significant portion of the population hasn't been infected. Here's the catch: we don't know how long immunity lasts after infection. This means even if you've had WNV before, it's still important to take precautions to avoid getting bitten by infected mosquitoes.

With Buzz Boss’s local mosquito control services, you can take proactive pest control measures and stop worrying about contracting West Nile Virus.

Treating West Nile Virus: What to Expect

Unfortunately, there's no specific treatment or cure for WNV itself. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and supporting the body's natural defences. This might involve:

  • Hospitalisation for severe cases
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Medication to manage pain and fever
  • Respiratory support
  • Physical or occupational therapy (for long-term effects)
Buzz Boss worker spraying against mosquitos in Saskatchewan

Buzz Boss – Mosquito Control Services for a Bug-Free Summer

Don't let pesky mosquitoes ruin your outdoor fun. Buzz Boss offers effective mosquito control solutions for Saskatchewan homes. Book now.

Our BuzzShield® Insect creates a protective barrier to keep all kinds of insects like mosquitoes, ticks, ants, and spiders at bay. For comprehensive pest control protection (from insects, rodents, and wasps) there’s our BuzzShield® Complete package.

Choose from seasonal or monthly plans, all with convenient online scheduling and worry-free service. Enjoy your mosquito-free yard this summer with Buzz Boss!

Book your BuzzShield® Insect package now

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