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Six birds in Saskatchewan infected with West Nile Virus

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The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative has detected West Nile Virus (WNV) in six Saskatchewan birds.

The organization, comprised of veterinary experts, identified the virus in Saskatoon and about 90 kilometres south of the city in Outlook.

WNV was found in two crows in Saskatoon and in three crows and a magpie in Outlook.

While WNV in wild birds indicates the virus is circulating, researchers say the risk to humans is extremely low.

Emily Jenkins, a veterinary microbiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, says people should be aware, but not worried.

“We need to be aware of it so that we use protective measures so that we minimize mosquito breeding ground. But we don't have to curtail our normal activities,” Jenkins says, recommending insect repellent and wearing long sleeves to avoid bites.

The primary mosquito species that carries WNV in Saskatchewan is Culex tarsalis, which lays its eggs in standing water.

“The specific mosquito group that is responsible for West Nile transmission seems to be lot lower, a lot less this year, compared to previous years,” arbovirologist, Jumari Snyman, told CTV News.

“This might be due to the drought conditions that we have been seeing.”

To limit mosquito breeding, Snyman advises regularly emptying containers that can collect water — such as bird baths and eaves troughs.

Most people infected with WNV experience no symptoms.

According to the province, about 20 per cent of people who do get infected experience fever and less than one per cent develop more serious symptoms.

“Symptomatic cases, last year — it still needs to be confirmed — only 45 people in Canada actually got West Nile, so the infection rate is quite low,” Snyman says.

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