West Nile virus in Calgary

Aug. 22, 2012, 11:33 a.m.

CALGARY — The province’s first human case of West Nile Virus in two years was confirmed Tuesday, prompting health officials to warn Albertans about reducing their risk.

Dr. David Strong, south zone officer with Alberta Health Services, confirmed a woman under the age of 65 living in a town south of Calgary has contracted the non-neurological, or less serious, form of West Nile.

“This is an unfortunate reminder that we do have this virus in Alberta. It is here. There is a risk and we need to take the right precautions to avoid being bit.”

Because the female patient has contracted non-neurological syndrome, Strong is confident she will eventually recover, although she may still be facing weeks, possibly even months, of symptoms including fatigue.

Strong did not want to say which town the woman is from, not just to ensure her confidentiality but to encourage all residents in Calgary and southern Alberta municipalities to do whatever they can to protect themselves.

“There are steps that can make it harder for mosquitoes to find you — and remember, if they can’t find you, they can’t bite you.”

To prevent bites, AHS suggests all Albertans wear mosquito repellent with DEET when they are outdoors.

You should also wear long- sleeves, light-coloured shirts and pants, a hat, and consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

After being bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, humans can develop West Nile non-neurological syndrome, experiencing fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, swollen glands and headaches.

Occasionally, individuals can develop the more serious neurological syndrome, experiencing tremors, drowsiness, confusion, swallowing problems, high fever, unconsciousness, paralysis and even death.

Strong explains Albertans are at higher risk this summer than the past two summers, where no cases were reported, because of the hot weather.

“Last year, we had a very cool summer, so the risk just wasn’t as high.

“This year’s risk will stay around until the first freeze, and will depend on how cool or warm of a fall we end up having.”

Earlier this spring, city pest management officials were welcoming a respite from mosquitoes thanks to a relatively dry winter and a very cool spring.

Seasonal ponds in rural areas surrounding Calgary were not yet filled at the end of June.

Still, Strong says so much heat in July and August has allowed a larger population of mosquitoes to stick around this summer, increasing Albertans’ risk.

This season across Canada, 34 human cases of West Nile have been reported so far. But the number is still significantly less than last year’s national total of 102 cases.

<< News Archive