The Saskatchewan Health Ministry is writing to 58 West Nile virus patients about a potential breach of their private health information.

It happened during a health management class in 2005 and 2006 at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.

Up to 140 students in a health information management course were using information from West Nile patients that was on file from 2003.

West Nile fever, caused by the virus, typically comes with mild flu-like symptoms, but in rare cases can lead to paralysis or even death.

The information was aggregated, but there was a source file students had access to that contained the individual health records.

Officials say it's highly unlikely, although not impossible, that students actually read the names and associated health files.

In a news release, Sara Hawryluk, director of health information policy at the ministry of health, said the government is sorry and is working with the privacy commissioner to make sure nothing like this happens again.

The potential breach was discovered when SIAST sent the old records back for an update. At that time, the health ministry discovered what had happened.

The government disclosed the potential problem Thursday, two days after the Saskatchewan Privacy and Information Commissioner released a report about three unrelated privacy breaches that involved health care workers who looked up their coworkers' private information.