British Columbia

B.C. looks to Washington state in West Nile fight

Health officials in B.C. need only look south of the border to discover how to curb the spread of the West Nile virus.

Health officials in B.C. need only look south of the border to discover how to curb the spread of the West Nile virus.

The first case of a human contracting the virus in B.C. was in the Okanagan Valley this summer.

Officials say the disease most likely travelled from Washington state, where it's been for more than a decade.

Most experts are surprised it took so long to cross the border.

Dr. Paul Hassleback, the medical health officer with Interior Health, said the mountains likely slowed the spread.

"The geography, the terrain, did modify how West Nile is moving. It's very difficult to predict how it will behave in subsequent years," he said.

Washington state provides a good example of how to keep the disease from spreading.

The state has never had more than three confirmed human cases in a year and no one has died from the West Nile virus.

"I think a large part of that is because of education efforts to keep people away from mosquitoes and control mosquito habitat throughout the state," said Gord MacCracken of the Washington state Department of Health.

Officials in B.C. say that's exactly what they plan to do.

They're working on letting people know the West Nile virus is now in B.C., and making sure the public knows how critical it is to prevent mosquito bites.

now