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Watch out for West Nile

It's approaching the end of July, and that means health officials are on the lookout for West Nile Virus.

It's approaching the end of July, and that means health officials are on the lookout for West Nile Virus.

The provincial Ministry of Health has issued a press release saying there has been an increase in the number of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes in southern Saskatchewan in the last couple of weeks.

The culex tarsalis mosquito is known to spread the West Nile Virus, which usually results in no or mild symptoms but which can produce serious neurological illness such as encephalitis, a disease that can have long-term complications and can cause death.

In a statement issued July 16, provincial West Nile Virus co-ordinator Phil Curry said the "next two weeks will be critical in terms of assessing the West Nile Virus risk for the rest of the season."

Mid-July through August has typically been the highest risk period for West Nile virus due to increasing numbers of Culex tarsalis mosquitos as well as warmer weather and people spending more time outdoors.

People are being urged to spend less time outdoors between dusk and dawn, to maintain door and window screens tightly and free of holes, and to use appropriate insect repellent and to wear protective clothing such as long sleeves.

In North Battleford, the city issued a news release saying that the Culex tarsalis mosquito has not been detected in the northwest, however they are warning that the risk of exposure to the virus is increasing.

Parks Director Keith Anderson stated in a July 16 news release that the trap results from the previous week indicated there were no Culex tarsalis caught.

Still, that doesn't mean proper precautions shouldn't be taken, said Anderson in an interview this week with the Regional Optimist.

"Now we are getting into the time when Culex starts to show up," said Anderson.

He said the species is a mid-summer species that appears during the warmer-weather months.

Anderson says one reason we haven't seen Culex mosquitos yet is because it has been a cooler year due to wet weather, and we may not see the Culex tarsalis mosquito for another couple of weeks.

The City is also continuing to monitor standing water for mosquito larva and applies the biological agent Vecto bac to kill the larva. Two live traps are set up to collect samples twice a week.

The City is also working on projects to drain areas where there is a lot of standing water. Anderson said one project is to build drainage into the Lawrence School yard where surface water has been known to build up. As well, drainage issues are being addressed in the area where the new CU Plex is going up to reduce surface water there.

The province has also reinstated matching funding for fighting West Nile virus, and Anderson said the city has applied with those two projects identified as potential recipients for funding. He doesn't expect any problems in getting the application approved.

On a positive note, the mosquito situation seems to have improved. Anderson noted that earlier this year, when they started trapping,, 2,500 mosquitoes were found in the traps. The latest counts are seeing that number reduced to about 400 or 500 a night, Anderson said.

Still, with West Nile season approaching Anderson is encouraging residents to dress appropriately and continue to be "slap-happy" and kill as many mosquitoes as they can.