Dear Sandra

Dear Sandra,

With West Nile prevalent in some areas of Canada right now, especially Alberta, I’m wondering why mosquitoes choose to bite some people and not others? Also, how do you know if you if you have the West Nile virus?

Baffled in Brooks

Dear Baffled,

Mosquitoes are not choosy “biters,” they don’t really have preferences as to whose blood they will suck, though it seems that men are more likely to be bitten (with no real scientific reasoning that I could find) as well as larger people (possibly because they produce more body heat and CO2 output).

Some people have varying severities or allergic reactions to the bites. The time it takes for a reaction from the bite to appear is anywhere from 20 minutes in a 6-year old to 16 hours in an adult over 40 (probably because adults have more antibodies to a wider variety of antigens in the body). The reaction depends on whether you are allergic to mosquito saliva; it also depends on whether you have built up a tolerance to the saliva of the breed of mosquito that bit you. If you’re wondering how I know all of this, I have first hand knowledge as mosquito bites on me swell up to a bright red mound on my skin that can be seen from a mile away leaving people wondering if I have some sort of weird disease on my legs and arms, while I’ve yet to see one visible bite on my husbands’ skin.

Now as for knowing if you have West Nile Virus here’s a few facts from Health Canada’s website on to WNV:
“¢ Symptoms will usually appear within 2 to 15 days and range in severity from person to person.
“¢ In mild cases, there may be flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache and body aches. Some people may also develop a mild rash, or swollen lymph glands.
“¢ Some individuals have weaker immune systems, and they are at greater risk of developing symptoms and health effects that are more serious, including meningitis and encephalitis, both of which are sometimes fatal. In such cases, symptoms may include the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, loss of consciousness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness and paralysis. During 2002, several other symptoms of WN virus were identified including movement disorders, Parkinsonism, poliomyelitis-like syndrome and muscle degeneration.

If you are exhibiting WNV like symptoms talk with your doctor and a simple blood-test will confirm if you are harboring the virus. As for treatment, there are currently no vaccinations available for WNV or any particular method of treating it. Check out Health Canada’s website for more information on the West Nile Virus.

This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of