Summer is prime time for disease-carrying mosquitoes. (USDA-Agricultural Research Service)

Prepare for West Nile

As summer temperatures increase, so does the risk of West Nile virus.

West Nile virus is a disease that is spread from infected corvid birds (crows, ravens, magpies, and jays) to humans through mosquito bites. It was first detected in B.C. in the South Okanagan during the summer of 2009. Since then there have been four human cases – all in the Okanagan.

“The risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile virus infection is low for most people,” states the Interior Health Authority.

“However, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are more at risk. There are things everyone can do both at home and while travelling to reduce the risk of infection. Any activity that prevents mosquitoes from biting or breeding can help to reduce the risk of becoming infected with West Nile virus.”

Anything that can hold water can be a mosquito breeding area. Identify and remove potential breeding areas on your property – empty saucers under flowerpots; change water in bird baths twice a week; unclog rain gutters; drain tarps, tires, and other debris where rain water may collect; and install a pump in ornamental ponds or stock them with fish. Stagnant backyard pools can be a big source of mosquitoes and should be maintained regularly to prevent mosquito growth.

Install screens on windows. Screens will help prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors.

Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn. This is the time of day mosquitoes that can carry the virus are most active.

Wear protective clothing. If you are in an area with many mosquitoes, wear loose fitting, light coloured, full-length pants, and a long-sleeved shirt.

Use mosquito repellent. Apply mosquito repellent to areas of exposed skin. Check the product label for instructions on proper use.

“Repellents containing DEET are safe for those over six months of age when used according to the directions on the label,” states IHA.