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West Nile virus case confirmed in B.C., two more cases in Washington state

Editors Note: A web-based surveillance report map published by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and dated Aug. 21, 2019, is incorrect, according to spokeperson Heather Amos. 

The recent travel-related human case of West Nile virus was reported on Vancouver Island. 

The story has been changed to reflect that corrected information.

In British Columbia, a new case of West Nile virus has been reported.

Historically, only non-human cases of West Nile have been confirmed outside of the Okanagan, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, which states birds and a horse were found to be infected as well.

In 2019, one travel-related human case was detected on Vancouver Island, according to spokesperson Heather Amos.

One travel-related horse case have been reported in another part of the province, the agency said.

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Meanwhile, health officials in Washington state are reporting two new cases of West Nile virus.

READ MORE: Okanagan residents warned of increased risk of West Nile virus

The two new cases of the potentially fatal illness have been confirmed in women in their 50s, bringing the total cases of confirmed West Nile in Washington to three in 2019.

All three cases were detected in people living near the town of Kennewick, where the Columbia River turns west to create the border with Oregon state on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

All three cases were state-acquired, according to the Washington State Department of Health (WSDH).

West Nile virus has been detected in 26 mosquito samples from around Washington state this year as well as in one horse.

“In 1999, West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in New York City,” according to WSDH. “Since that time, it has spread rapidly throughout the country.”

READ MORE: Substance eaten by eight-year-old boy off of Kelowna classroom floor identified

In 2002, West Nile virus was first detected in a person residing in Ontario, according to the Canadian government.

There were 427 cases reported across the country in 2018.

The U.S. Centre for Disease Control map indicates hundreds of confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in 2019, including 141 cases in Arizona’s Maricopa County alone this year.

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In August, the Interior Health Authority, which provides health services in the Okanagan, urged residents to stay vigilant and protect against mosquito bites.

WATCH STORY: Okanagan residents warned of increased risk of West Nile virus

The Interior health Authority issues a warning that the chance of contracting the West Nile virus is higher at this time of year
The Interior health Authority issues a warning that the chance of contracting the West Nile virus is higher at this time of year

West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes, in most cases. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on birds that carry the virus, according to the WSDH.

Bird species that are more vulnerable to the virus include crows, jays, magpies and ravens, according to the Canadian government.

Health agencies state that one in five people who do become infected with West Nile become ill, and risk increases with age.

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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