Heading into the peak season for West Nile virus cases, the public is being urged to continue to take precautions against mosquito bites.
“The mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus are still active and searching for a blood meal,” said Erica Kroeker with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen mosquito control. “West Nile cases generally peak in late August and September.”
Kroeker said if you are bitten by a mosquito you don’t have to get tested for West Nile virus, as only one in five people that become infected show any symptoms. Those who do, usually get a feeling similar to the flu and in some cases very serious illness can develop — especially for people over 50 who are more at risk.
The RDOS began the West Nile Prevention Program in mid-May this year and will continue into late August. Each week, the RDOS mosquito control crew tests standing water at identified sites for the presence of mosquito larvae. If the site requires treatment, a granular bacteria larvicide is applied to the water. Kroeker said this natural bacteria kills mosquitos and biting black fly at their larval stage but does not kill adult mosquitoes. According to the RDOS, the product has been found to not harm other insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds or mammals.
Traps are used to collect adult mosquitoes in the RDOS which are sent to B.C. Centre for Disease Control to be ground up and tested for West Nile virus. Dead birds of the corvid family (including crows, ravens, jays, magpies and Clark’s nutcrackers) as well as some horses and seriously ill humans are also tested. Horse vaccines are available and those interested should contact their veterinarian for more information.
Last year the first positive case of West Nile virus in a crow in B.C. turned up in Kelowna. The discovery did not come as a shock to Interior Health medical officers as it was confirmed both in mosquito pools in the South Okanagan and in two human cases in the same area the year prior.
To protect yourself, Kroeker said limit your time outdoors at dawn and dusk because the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus are most active at these times. Wear loose, light-coloured pants and long-sleeved shirts and mosquito repellents as directed on the bottle.
At home it is suggested to mend screens and reduce sources of standing water on your property since mosquitoes only need one teaspoon of water to breed in. Clean and unclog eaves-troughs and gutters and remove water from any depressions on your roof or driveway. Refresh pet dishes and bird-baths once per week. It is also recommended to remove standing water from items such as tires, pails, tarps, boats, pool and hot tub interiors and pool covers.
Residents in the RDOS or on local Indian Band land are encouraged to contact the RDOS mosquito control crew if they have car and truck tires laying around their property as they will pick them up for disposal for free until early September.
“These mosquitoes don’t come in the huge swarms like the nuisance spring mosquitos, and people often become complacent. Removing items that collect water around your property and continuing to practise personal protection throughout the summer helps to prevent West Nile virus infection,” said Kroeker.
To report a dead corvid, contact Interior Health at 1-866-300-0520. To report a potential mosquito breeding site, or have your tires collected by the RDOS mosquito control program, contact them at 250-490-4232, toll free at 1-877-610-3737 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.