The province is preparing for the West Nile virus season and is reminding Nova Scotians to take precautions to reduce their risk of infection. “While there was no West Nile virus activity in the province last summer, it is important for all Nova Scotians to reduce their own risk of infection this summer, whether in their own backyard or as they travel,” said acting Health Minister Jamie Muir. Nova Scotia’s 2005 West Nile Virus Action Plan includes surveillance, information for health-care professionals and the public, and prevention of mosquito bites and mosquito breeding. The surveillance work, called West Nile Virus Watch, includes looking for West Nile virus in people, birds, horses and mosquitoes. This week, Department of Natural Resources staff have begun collecting reported dead birds. Nova Scotians are encouraged to report any dead crows, ravens, blue jays or grey jays to their local Natural Resources office. Natural Resources collects a sample of the birds for testing, and if West Nile activity is identified in an area, the mosquito populations are monitored and tested for the virus. Although West Nile virus was not detected in Nova Scotia in 2004, during the 2003 season two Nova Scotians became infected with the virus while travelling out of province. Seventeen birds and horses also tested positive. “We advise people to incorporate mosquito reduction and prevention tips into their regular summer activities,” said Dr. Maureen Baikie, deputy chief medical officer of health. “That includes wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent containing DEET, and eliminating standing water on property.” Highlights of the West Nile Virus Action Plan are located on the Department of Health website at www.gov.ns.ca/health/opmoh . Nova Scotians can learn more about West Nile virus by visiting the website or by contacting their local public health office. Updates on West Nile virus will be made available through the media as necessary throughout the virus season.