As the temperatures start to rise, creating ideal conditions for mosquitoes, Fraser Health is reminding Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents to guard against West Niles Virus (WNV).
WNV is a disease carried by mosquitoes. It can infect people, as well as other mammals and birds.
Most people who become infected do not have any symptoms, but about 20 per cent will experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, rash, swollen glands and sensitivity to light, explained Glen Embree, manager of Fraser Health's environmental health services.
About one in 150 infected people experience serious illness.
"The best way to reduce mosquito bites and the risk of WNV is to help limit the number of mosquitoes in the first place," Embree said.
"You can prevent mosquito breeding by getting rid of any standing water on your property. For example, get rid of water in flower pots, in garbage can lids, in empty bottles on your sundecks, and in children's toys and patio furniture that have been sitting outside all year," he said.
Fraser Health, in partnership with the BC Centre for Disease Control, has a surveillance program to act as an early detection and public notification system for WNV.
This includes public education, testing of mosquitoes caught in traps set up throughout the region (Delta to Hope), and monitoring dead crow reports.
As crows are particularly susceptible and often die as a result of WNV illness, Fraser Health tracks public reports of the dead birds, and collects some for testing.
This is one of the most reliable methods of early detection. Disease-positive crows often precede the illness in humans by two to six weeks, allowing health officials to implement pest management plans to minimize human health risk.
"Residents play a big role in West Nile surveillance," Embree said. "Without public participation, early detection of WNV is more difficult. We urge residents in the Fraser Health region to be alert to dead crows and report them by calling Fraser Health's West Nile Virus Reporting Line."
In 2011 there were no cases of endemic (locally acquired) cases of WNV anywhere in B.C., including the Fraser Health region, and there have been no mosquito pools or birds that have tested positive for WNV this season.
Still, health officials are asking people to continue to do what they can to protect themselves.
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