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August long weekend a high-risk time for West Nile, says Winnipeg bug expert

Winnipeg entomologist Taz Stuart says you should still wear bug repellent despite low mosquito count.
Winnipeg entomologist Taz Stuart says you should still wear bug repellent despite low mosquito count. File/Global News

A Winnipeg bug expert says the August long weekend is historically the most high-risk time for humans to become infected with West Nile virus in Western Canada.

Thanks to a low number of nuisance mosquitoes in the city this summer, more people are skipping out on bug repellent, which is putting them at a higher risk, according to entomologist Taz Stuart.

“Because there are no mosquitoes, you’re not using repellent and that’s what people need to be wearing,” he said. “They need to be protecting themselves from detector mosquitoes.”

READ MORE: First mosquitoes carrying West Nile arrive in Winnipeg

The low mosquito count can be attributed to dry weather conditions, although it is the perfect environment for Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, which are the ones that carry and transmit West Nile to humans.

“Tarsalis is a very sneaky biter,” Stuart said. “You don’t feel when she bites your wrists and your ankles because she’s a wrist and ankle biter, mostly.”

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Stuart recommends staying inside while Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are most active, which is during dusk and dawn. He also suggests wearing white, long-sleeve shirts and pants instead of shorts.