How to Protect Yourself from West Nile Virus

November 12, 2012

How to Protect Yourself from West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus (WNV) as the name suggests originated in Africa and was found around the Nile River. This virus is carried by birds however, you don’t generally get it from birds. It turns out that mosquitos bite infected birds and pick it up and then the mosquito passes it on to you by biting you. It is believed to have been introduced to the United States by way of New York City possibly by birds brought in to the zoo in 1999. A few years later the virus had spread across the country. This virus is known to cause encephalitis in humans which is an inflammation of the brain which is serious business. Since it involves mosquitos, the chances of getting WNV increases in summer time and fades in spring and fall.

If you live in an area that has a lot of mosquitos, there are some simple things you can do to prevent getting bitten. You can use a mosquito repellent when you go outdoors and make sure to buy a good one that really works. Dusk and dawn is when mosquitos are particularly active so it is best to void being outside at those times. Make sure you have good screens on your windows and don’t leave outside doors open unless they have screen doors to protect you from the elements. Check around your yard to make sure you don’t have any mosquito breeding areas. Anything that contains standing water will allow mosquitos to breed.

West Nile Virus symptoms vary depending on the severity of your infection. In general, it takes it takes somewhere between half a week to 2 weeks to develop symptoms. It is rare to get a serious West Nile Virus infection however, the outcome can be deadly. The symptoms of this encephalitis include: very high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, stupor, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Some symptoms may continue and become permanent. Recall, that encephalitis is inflammation of the brain.

Milder Forms of West Nile Virus are more common. Symptoms associated with the milder infection include: fever, headache, body aches and pains, nausea and possibly swollen lymph nodes. The infection may last for a few days to a week or so.

Fortunately, most people who become infected with the West Nile Virus are asymptomatic.

At the moment, there is no cure or specific treatment for West Nile Virus. For the most part individuals with mild to moderate infections don’t need medical attention and this is generally the case for people who are healthy to begin with. If you have a severe case, you will need to be hospitalized however, all they can do is keep you under observation, monitor vital signs, and supply fluids. Very few individuals have died from this disease to date and overly is not something to worry about. If you happen to be in an area that has a lot of mosquitos, try to avoid getting bitten by staying away from the outdoors and if necessary use mosquito repellent.

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