Child becomes first human case of West Nile virus in Manitoba this year

A child in southern Manitoba has become the first human case of West Nile virus in the province this year.

The child, who is under 10, lives in the Southern Health Region

A Manitoba child was likely exposed to West Nile virus in early July, the province said in a news release Thursday. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

A child in southern Manitoba has become the first human case of West Nile virus in the province this year.

The child, who is under 10, lives in the Southern Health Region and was hospitalized with neurological symptoms, the province said in a news release Thursday.

Tim Hilderman, a medical officer with Manitoba Health, said the child, who was likely exposed in early July, has since been released from hospital and is doing well.

He said the virus is capable of causing "a whole spectrum" of symptoms — ranging from the patient not even knowing they've been infected to mild flu-like symptoms to, in about one in every 150 cases, a severe disease that affects the nervous system.

"These are things like meningitis, encephalitis​, even causing paralysis," Hilderman said.

"And while these are rare cases, they still do occur from time to time in Manitoba and they can result in fairly severe outcomes.

"Fortunately in this case, it doesn't look like it is the case but, you know, the situation has to be monitored for a period of time."

Peak exposure period

Hilderman said although trap counts show the numbers of nuisance mosquitoes are down this summer, the number of West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes is actually up, meaning Manitobans should stay vigilant against the biters.

And that's all the more important going into the August long weekend, a period when people are historically at the highest risk for West Nile virus exposure, Hilderman says.

"We really want to get out there, letting people know that there is a risk of West Nile virus, despite the fact that we're not getting bothered — like typically we do in Manitoba — by those nuisance mosquitos," he told media Thursday.

Manitoba Health's mosquito surveillance program first collected insects infected with the virus this season in late June. Although mosquito numbers are low in many areas, the recent warm and dry conditions are ideal for the Culex tarsalis mosquitoes that carry the virus.

To reduce your risk of mosquito bites and potential infection, the province recommends:

  • Reducing the amount of time spent outdoors during peak mosquito hours (between dusk and dawn).
  • Using appropriate mosquito repellent.
  • Wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Maintaining door and window screens so they fit tightly and are free of holes.

To prevent Culex tarsalis mosquitoes from developing near your home, the province says homeowners can:

  • Clean eavestroughs and regularly empty bird baths, old tires and other items that collect water.
  • Ensure rain barrels are covered with mosquito screening or are tightly sealed around the downspout.
  • Improve landscaping to prevent standing water around the home.

For more information and weekly updates on West Nile in the province, you can visit Manitoba Health's website.

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