Only a matter of time before West Nile virus hits resort. 

There is no doubt that the dreaded mosquito-borne West Nile virus is on its way to Whistler.

It may come to B.C. trapped on an airplane, a ship, on an infected migrating bird or in a cargo compartment. But come it will.

This year there have been 156 cases in the US in humans, and nine deaths.

And although the virus is yet to be confirmed in humans in Canada it has been detected in infected birds as far West as Saskatchewan.

The virus has also been detected in dead birds in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Health officials announced Tuesday that mosquitoes in Winnipeg have tested positive for the West Nile virus.

This week in Vancouver experts attending the International Conference on Disease in Nature Communicable to Man at the University of B.C. said they are convinced it is inevitable that virus will sweep across Canada, just as it is crossing the United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning describing the virus as an "emerging, infectious disease epidemic" that could easily spread to the Pacific Coast.

Experts such as Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Peter Buck expect the virus will get to B.C. with a migratory bird.

Over 110 bird species are known to be infected.

The easiest way to avoid getting the virus is to avoid mosquito bites. Use a DEET repellent, advises the CDC, although be careful of its use on small children.

Wear long pants and sleeves in areas where mosquitoes are abundant and get rid of any slow moving water that could act as a breeding ground for the biting pests.

Most people who are infected with the virus will show few if any symptoms. The risk of illness is greater for those over 50 years of age.

A tiny percentage of infected people will get West Nile encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal.

Even if a mosquito is infected less than 1 per cent of people bitten will become ill.

Animals can also be infected, including horses, rabbits and dogs. But there are no known cases of the virus being passed to humans from animals.

Nor are there any cases of the virus being spread from person to person.

It is passed from the mosquito’s saliva sacs when it is feeding.

The virus is believed to have originated in Uganda. It was first isolated in 1937. It has caused periodic outbreaks in the Middle East and Europe since then.

Experts have speculated that it came to this hemisphere three years ago by a mosquito trapped on an airplane. It may also have come on an infected bird.

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