Northern Health appoints West Nile Virus coordinators; asks for public?s help in spotting dead corvids

Northern Health is increasing its tracking for potential West Nile Virus activity by hiring four coordinators to help in mosquito and corvid (ravens, crows, magpies, and jays) surveillance. To date, there has been no West Nile Virus activity originating in the region, but that could change this year.

Northern Health is asking for the public?s help in reporting sightings of dead corvids, and possibly bringing specimens into local health units for testing. WNV coordinators will be available to tell people how to safely collect dead birds for testing.

?We?re asking for people to keep an eye out for three or more dead corvids per city block or acre. If they see those numbers of dead birds, they should definitely contact one of our WNV coordinators,? said Dr. David Bowering, Chief Medical Health Officer. ?But people shouldn?t be concerned if they see a dead bird in isolation. After all, birds die all the time for a variety of reasons.?

WNV coordinators will:

? Oversee the submission for testing of dead corvids collected by the public;

?Set up mosquito traps throughout the north and collect the mosquitoes for submission to BC Centre for Disease Control;

? Aid in public education both in delivering pamphlets and posters to various locations in our communities, and attending local events with a display and information.

The list of WNV coordinators is as follows:

HSDA Communities

Northern Interior HSDA

Robson Valley, Mackenzie, Vanderhoof, Quesnel, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, Granisle, Burns Lake, and Prince George(250) 565-2150

Northwest HSDA

Houston, Smithers, Hazelton, Stewart, Dease Lake, Terrace, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte Islands(250) 638-2256

Northeast HSDA

Chetwynd, Hudson?s Hope, Fort St. John(250) 788-9219 or (250) 787-3355

Northeast HSDA

Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe, Tumbler Ridge, Fort Nelson (250) 719-6500

Testing for dead corvids will continue through the summer until such time as West Nile Virus is confirmed to be in the North. Northern Health has also increased mosquito testing by working with some municipalities and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of the Government of Canada. The BC Centre for Disease Control will help in identifying if mosquitoes captured in the north are of the specific types that typically carry West Nile Virus.

West Nile Virus is a disease that is passed from infected birds to people via mosquitoes. Of the people who are infected, about 80 per cent of people will not get sick at all. 20 per cent will have mild flu-like symptoms. Very few cases will be more serious.

Northern residents can protect themselves from West Nile virus by taking the following precautions:

? Remove containers (wheelbarrows, tires, pots, etc.) that may fill with water from yards to reduce mosquito breeding areas;

?Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn in areas where mosquitoes are active;

?Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants in mosquito-infested areas;

?Use mosquito repellants ? those with DEET are most effective ? when mosquitoes are active, making sure to follow the instructions; and

?Use screens on windows and doors, and/or bed netting, if in a mosquito-infested area.

If there are any confirmed cases of West Nile Virus originating in the North, Northern Health will alert the public.

For more information on West Nile Virus or any other health issue, please call the BC NurseLine toll-free at 1-866-215-4700, or TTY at 1-866-889-4700 for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Registered nurses at this line can provide confidential health information and advice? 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Translation services are available in 130 languages.

See the BC HealthGuide on-line at www.bchealthguide.org for more information, or read the BC HealthFile on West Nile Virus: http://www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles/hfile88.stm