West Nile Virus approaching Heartland Health Region

The risk of contracting West Nile Virus is at its peak over these last few weeks of summer and health officials want to remind people that proper prevention along with remaining vigilant are the best weapons to avoid becoming sick.

Dr. David Torr, consulting medical health officer for the Heartland Health Region, said a human case of West Nile Virus has been confirmed in southeastern Saskatchewan this year and the history of the virus indicates it flows from east westward. He said there are already positive pools of West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes in Regina and in the Five Hills Health Region, so it is only a matter of time before it comes to Heartland and people need to protect themselves from getting bit.

“This is sort of a tricky time when some of the nuisance mosquitoes are diminishing in numbers and people tend to focus on the nuisance mosquitoes whereas the Culex tarsalis (West Nile Virus carrying mosquito) is more of a quiet biter,” said Torr. “It’s not like the nuisance mosquitoes that are sort of very distinct and very noticeable. It tends to bite in the dusk and in the dawn time periods and especially in the evening when people are sitting outside.”

Torr said the Culex tarsalis also thrives in the hot weather conditions that this area has experienced over the past month, so the expectation is the number of these mosquitoes flying around is high. He said the likelihood of more mosquitoes out there means more are feeding on West Nile Virus infected birds and then more humans are going to be bitten by the subsequently infected mosquitoes.

Davidson resident Gloria Morrison found a dead crow under a fir tree on her Garfield Street property last Monday and said she immediately thought of West Nile Virus. She said they haven’t decided what to do about the bird yet, but may send the crow to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) to get it tested.

Dr. Trent Bollinger, a veterinarian with CWHC at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, said they have confirmed one dead crow found near Allan in early August died from West Nile Virus. He said they have also determined a dead Red-Tailed Hawk found in Saskatoon this summer also had the disease.

To read more please see the September 1 print edition of The Davidson Leader.