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West Nile threat increases

Saskatchewan Health's announcement of the first human case of West Nile virus infection in the province this year should remind the public to take precautions against all mosquito bites, says the medical health officer for Sun Country Regional Health Authority.

Remember the Four Ds, said Dr. Shauna Hudson Tuesday. Drain all standing water, Dress in loose, light long-sleeved clothing, use an insect repellent that contains Deet, and limit Dawn and Dusk activities, she said.

Saskatchewan Health announced Tuesday that preliminary tests indicate a Regina woman has contracted West Nile fever.

Dr. Hudson said a variety of things start to come together in the kind of weather southern Saskatchewan has experienced this summer. First dead birds are found, the specific mosquitos (Culex tarsalis) that carry West Nile virus are found in traps and then they become positive for West Nile virus, veterinarians may find the virus in horses and then human cases show up, she said.

Culex tarsalis like hot days and the southeast corner of the province has been getting lots of hot days, she said.

Two dead birds have been tested in Sun Country to July 22, both of them negative for WNV. Dr. Hudson noted the second generation of Culex tarsalis began making an appearance in southeastern and south central Saskatchewan during the week of July 15.

Water, heat and humidity levels were optimal for mosquito development, both for larvae and adults, she said. Culex tarsalis is starting to become a higher percentage of the total mosquitoes caught each week.

The total number of mosquitos being trapped is normal for this time of year, she said. Dr. Hudson said with the high humidity and low wind conditions of recent weeks, the survivability of new adults has increased everywhere in the region, from open grass areas to shrubbery.

Culex numbers are expected to rise sharply in many areas and will become an increasing percentage of the total mosquito population in the next few weeks.

"This is normal as we enter into the mid-summer period. Overall, the numbers of Culex are expected to be substantially higher than we saw in 2004, which increases the risk of human infection," she said.

For more information, please call Dr. Shauna Hudson, Sun Country Health Region Medical Health Officer, at 842-8659.

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