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West Nile Virus: Symptom, Treatment & Prevention

The West Nile virus is among the most commonly spread infections in people passed through mosquito bites. In North America, occurrences of West Nile virus (WNV) is primarily observed during summer through fall. In southern climates that experience milder temperatures, West Nile virus can be spread year-round. Also, cases of WNV have been reported throughout the central United States.

West Nile Virus

Read more to learn about the symptom, treatment & prevention of the West Nile virus:

How do people acquire West Nile virus (WNV) infection?

The majority of West Nile virus infections occur during hot weather conditions when mosquitos are most active. The infection is passed on to the mosquitoes when they feed on infected birds.

Usually, West Nile virus gets transmitted to humans and animals through infected mosquitoes. You can’t acquire it from chance interaction with an infected person or animal.

Few, extremely rare cases of West Nile virus have been reported to transmit through other channels, including organ replacement, blood transfusion, mother to infant during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and virus exposure in a lab.

What are the signs & symptoms of West Nile virus infection?

Luckily, almost 8 out of 10 people infected with WNV do not show any symptoms. Roughly 1 in 5 infected individuals acquires milder symptoms like a fever, headache, joint pains, diarrhea, or rash. Approximately 1 out of 150 people infected by the virus get a severe, occasionally fatal, ailment including but not limited to:

  • A high temperature
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Vision loss
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis

Who is at risk for acquiring West Nile virus infection?

People who generally stay outdoors for long durations are at maximum risk of infection. The mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus are predominantly active at dawn and dusk, so remaining outdoors during those periods elevates the risk of infection.

People aged 50 and above are more prone to develop the West Nile disease symptoms, but it’s not evident whether they are especially susceptible to infection.

Infants and pregnant women are not at greater risk of West Nile virus infection.

What are the risks involved with West Nile virus infection?

Regardless of your infection, the possibility of developing a severe illness due to West Nile virus is minimal because only less than 1 percent of the infected population becomes severely ill. Moreover, most individuals who do get sick fully recover. The following puts you at possible risk of developing a severe or life-threating infection:

  • Being older puts you at higher risk
  • Suffering from diseases including cancer, diabetes, and more
  • Receiving an organ transplant

How do health care providers detect the West Nile virus infection?

Health care providers will send your blood sample for lab tests if you are suspected to have a West Nile virus infection.

What is the required treatment for West Nile virus?

There is no definite treatment for WNV disease; however clinical management is supportive. Mild signs of West Nile fever typically resolve on their own. For acute infection, symptoms can include severe headaches, a stiff neck, bafflement or confusion that can be treated by seeking prompt medical attention. Usually, a severe infection requires hospitalization.

Gina Nguyen, MD

Dr. Nguyen is a medical director at Family Care Center Costa Mesa. She has implemented standards of care for underserved population and helped the clinic achieve NCQA (National Committee of Quality Assurance) Level 2 recognition and FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Care Center) status. Now, her focus is on providing the highest quality care to patients and improving lifestyle choices to reduce or eliminate health problems.

Author

Dr. Nguyen is a medical director at Family Care Center Costa Mesa. She has implemented standards of care for underserved population and helped the clinic achieve NCQA (National Committee of Quality Assurance) Level 2 recognition and FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Care Center) status. Now, her focus is on providing the highest quality care to patients and improving lifestyle choices to reduce or eliminate health problems.
Family Care Centers

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