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Okanagan residents warned of increased risk of West Nile virus

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) has issued a warning about the increased risk of the West Nile virus at this time of year.

That’s because the mosquito species that’s most likely to carry the virus is most active in August.

The West Nile virus is a disease that’s spread from infected corvid birds, such as crows, ravens, magpies and jays, to humans through mosquito bites.

READ MORE: Tips for avoiding mosquito bites and protecting yourself against West Nile: AHS

IHA said while the risk of becoming seriously ill from the West Nile virus is low for most people, those most at risk are the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

The virus was first detected in B.C. in 2009 in the South Okanagan.

According to the IHA, there have been five human cases since then, all acquired in the Okanagan.

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WATCH BELOW (Aired July 30, 2019): Source of West Nile virus inconclusive after 15 birds died at Alberta Birds of Prey Centre: report

Source of West Nile virus inconclusive after 15 birds died at Alberta Birds of Prey Centre: report
Source of West Nile virus inconclusive after 15 birds died at Alberta Birds of Prey Centre: report

In 2018, the virus was detected in birds and a horse in the East Kootenay area.

While the risk of infection from handling birds is very low, IHA said people should never use bare hands to handle wild birds (dead or alive).

Further, because mosquitoes can also transmit the virus to horses and other animals, horse owners are being advised to contact their veterinarians for information about equine vaccines.

WATCH BELOW (Aired Aug. 22, 2018): West Nile virus detected in B.C. for first time in 2018

West Nile virus detected in B.C. for first time in 2018
West Nile virus detected in B.C. for first time in 2018

Also, IHA said any activity that prevents mosquitoes from biting or breeding can help reduce the risk of becoming infected.

According to IHA:

  • Prevent mosquito breeding around your home. It doesn’t take much time or water for mosquitoes to develop from eggs into adults.
  • Anything that can hold water can be a mosquito breeding area. Identify and remove potential breeding areas on your property.
  • Empty saucers under flowerpots; change water in bird baths twice a week; unclog rain gutters; drain tarps, tires, and other debris where rain water may collect; and, install a pump in ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
  • Stagnant backyard pools can be a big source of mosquitoes and should be maintained regularly to prevent mosquito growth.
  • Install screens on windows. Screens will help prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn. These times are when mosquitoes that can carry the virus are most active.
  • Wear protective clothing. If you are in an area with lots of mosquitoes, wear loose fitting, light coloured, full-length pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Use mosquito repellent. Apply mosquito repellent to areas of exposed skin. Check the product label for instructions on proper use.
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Click here for more information on the West Nile virus.