Frequently Asked Questions - West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus (WNv) ?

West Nile Virus is a mosquito borne virus that entered Canada in 1999. The disease is most prominent in certain species of mosquitoes. In Alberta it is the Culex Tarsalis mosquito that can transmit West Nile Virus.

Who is at risk?

This family of mosquitoes prefer to feed on birds and mammals. Putting raptors and other large mammals such as horses at risk. Humans can also be infected with West Nile Virus, it is important to keep in mind wherever there are mosquitoes there could be WNv.

Older adults are at a greater risk of severe illness, however, all Albertans are at risk so it is important to take precautions from bites.

Are there times of higher risk or specific places?

The mosquitos are most active in hot dry climates with long daylight. In southern provinces, this is typically the summer from May-August. Mosquitos breed in shallow, still water; such as small ponds, bird baths and old tires that form as temporary bodies of water.

A mosquito’s can hatch in as little as four days, it is important to address these areas as soon as possible.

What precautions can I take to prevent bites?

  • Wear light coloured, long sleeved shirts, pants and a hat
  • Use insect repellent with DEET
  • Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Apply sunscreen first! Then wait and apply your bug spray

What precautions can I take to prevent mosquito nests?

Around the home:

  • Check windows and door screens and repair any holes
  • Keep all doors and windows closed
  • Secure mosquito netting or screens to enclosures

Around the yard

  • Get rid of any standing water. Ex. Car tires, bird baths and small ponds, flower pots
  • Keep from excessive lawn watering
  • Empty children’s wading pools when not in use
  • Move spare tires to a dry place where they cannot collect rain
  • Make sure to frequently empty out garbage cans, small pools, flower pots when they have collected water
  • Create Swallow’s nests! This is a form of biological control for mosquitoes and a great activity or mid-summer science lesson for the kids

What Happened in 2018?

At the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Lethbridge County 15 hawks and owls died over the course of a few weeks. Necropsies conducted by the University of Calgary attributed the deaths to West Nile Virus. For more information, please see the Solstice Environmental Management report that was presented to Council in July of 2019.

What is the Town of Coaldale doing?

The Town of Coaldale is implementing three major strategies to prevent any harm to the wildlife:

  • Spraying bacterial larvicide: an environmentally friendly spray to reduce the mosquitoes associated with transmitting the disease
  • Attracting Swallows: a biological control for mosquitoes
  • Monitor and eliminate any shallow standing water

What are the symptoms?

WNv is contracted from a mosquito bite and cannot be spread through human contact or contact from other animals. Most people who get the virus do not get sick, in fact only ⅕ people actually get sick. The WNv causes inflammation to the brain and symptoms occur from 3-14 days after the bit. They include:

  • High fever
  • Confusion
  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck and back

Is there a treatment?

There is no treatment yet for WNv. Your body will naturally fight the infection on its own. Mild cases take about 3-6 days and recovery can happen at home. A more severe case can last a couple of weeks and may require professional help and medicine.

To help with any symptoms doctors recommend pain medicine, rest, and patience as no case of WNv is the same.