Water, water, water.
It is something that has been discussed time and time again over the past couple of months. We have talked about it in terms of the agriculture sector, road closures, the oil industry and the lack of sunshine. But what we haven't talked about is the fact that all of this lying water provides the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Experts believe that this year we will see an increased number of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, the carrier species of the West Nile Virus. Entomologist and Provincial West Nile Coordinator Phil Curry said "the ability of mosquito control programs to control these numbers is limited when you have this much habitat around and it becomes difficult to treat all these water areas in a timely way before mosquitoes emerge."
While the risk of West Nile virus varies yearly as a result of differences in temperature and the amount of virus in the bird population, mid-July and August is when there is typically a higher risk period for West Nile virus.
Last year, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health reported that a total of three human cases of West Nile virus were reported in Canada, two of which were in Saskatchewan. The province identified nine positive mosquitoes pools during monitoring procedures, with five found in the Estevan area.
As of June 27, the risk of West Nile virus in southern Saskatchewan is low. However, this is the point at which the West Nile Virus mosquito development is occurring. With no cure for the virus and no vaccine available, it is recommended that precautions against mosquito bites be taken.
"We strongly encourage people to take personal protective measures. Anyone who is bitten by an infected mosquito may get the West Nile Virus. While most people who become infected with the virus experience mild or no symptoms, there is always a small percentage of severe cases" said Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
Precautionary measures include using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing when outdoors and reducing the amount of time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn. In addition, people are encouraged to ensure that door and window screens fit tightly and are free of holes to reduce their risk of obtaining the virus.
The ministry is also encouraging people to decrease the number of mosquito friendly areas around their homes and reduce standing water. They encourage residents to clean and empty containers that collect water such as bird baths, flower pots, wheel-barrows and eaves troughs; clear yards of old tires and other items that can collect water; ensure rain barrels are covered or tightly sealed around the downspout and; keep bush, shrub, and lawns clear of overgrowth and debris.
If you are concerned about the prevalence of the West Nile virus in the area, the Ministry of Health provides an update of surveillance results, risk maps and reports at www.health.gov.sk.ca/west-nile-virus. Additional information can be found at www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.