West Nile Virus planning underway for North

FEBRUARY 19: Representatives from Northern BC municipalities, regional districts and First Nations, as well as Northern Health, attended a West Nile Virus planning meeting held in Prince George on February 18. The daylong session enabled participants to exchange ideas and information on how to reduce the possible risk of the disease in the North.

How Saskatchewan dealt with West Nile Virus last summer was a major area of discussion at the meeting. Other topics included: trapping of mosquitoes; identification of mosquitoes; checking mosquitoes for presence of the virus; surveillance for the illness in birds and horses; and educational materials for the public.

“We are concerned that there may be some human cases of West Nile Virus in BC in late summer this year,” said Dr. Lorna Medd, Medical Health Officer.

“However, Northern BC may not be affected as much as the southern regions of the province, since the virus’s main mosquito carrier prefers consistently hot dry weather.”

“Even so, we want to be as prepared as possible. With so much standing water across the North, we will be emphasizing personal protection and backyard water cleanup of potential mosquito breeding areas as a central approach.”

West Nile Virus is a disease that infects birds, animals, and humans.

Mosquitoes typically transmit the virus. But even in areas where the virus is active, less than one per cent of mosquitoes carry it. As of 2003, there have not been any confirmed cases of West Nile Virus reported in British Columbia.

Even when West Nile Virus arrives in BC, the risk of contracting it is very low. Of the people who are infected with West Nile Virus:

* About 80 per cent will have no symptoms;

* About 19 per cent will experience mild flu-like symptoms; and

* Roughly one per cent will have symptoms ranging from serious to life-threatening.