- People usually become infected with the virus through a mosquito bite.
- WNV is not spread through person-to-person contact such as touching, coughing, sneezing or drinking from a shared cup.
- Although the virus is not known to be transmitted to humans from animals, people should avoid handling dead animals or birds with their bare hands.
- Less commonly, WNV can be transmitted through blood transfusion and organ transplants if the donor was recently infected with WNV.
- WNV can also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn child or through breast milk, but these events are rare. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk from WNV.
How likely am I to get sick with WNV from one mosquito bite?
In areas where mosquitoes do carry the virus, usually only a small number of mosquitoes will be infected. Most mosquitoes that bite humans are not able to carry WNV, but there is no easy way to tell the difference between ones that can and ones that can’t so it is important to prevent any mosquito bite. Culex tarsalis and Culex pipiens are the mosquito species most likely to transmit WNV between birds, humans, and other animals in BC (they are competent vectors).
Who is at risk for WNV?
Everyone who is outside during the summer months gardening, golfing, walking, camping etc. should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. While anyone can be infected with WNV, the chances of having a severe illness are greater as you get older, even if you are healthy. You may also be at greater risk if you have a weakened immune system.