Information on West Nile Virus

November 12, 2012

Information on West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is a recognized, seasonal epidemic occurring in the summer and fall in North America. Although generally non threatening, in some cases it can cause permanent neurological problems.

Always try to prevent getting mosquito bites when outdoors. Use an insect or mosquito repellent when outside. Mosquitoes tend to be active between dusk and dawn. At these times make sure your legs and arms are covered by wearing long pants and long sleeves. Ensure you have mosquito screens on the doors and windows to try and keep the mosquitoes outdoors.

Empty any standing water from barrels, buckets and flower pots in an effort to reduce the risk of mosquitoes breeding in these areas. Change the water weekly if you have a bird bath along with any water dishes you may have for pets. Ensure that wading pools are empty and kept on their side when they are not in use. Tire swings can gather water so drill holes in these to allow the water to drain away.

Symptoms and Indications of West Nile Virus

Approximately 1 out of 150 people become infected with the virus develop a serious illness. Severe symptoms may include:

  • high fever

  • headache

  • neck stiffness

  • stupor

  • disorientation

  • coma

  • tremors

  • convulsion

  • muscle weakness

  • vision loss

  • numbness and paralysis

These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

About 20% of people infected with the virus suffer the following milder symptoms:

  • fever

  • head and body ache

  • vomiting and nausea

  • swollen lymph glands

  • appearance of rash on back, chest and stomach

These symptoms normally last for a couple of days.

Approximately 80%of people report no symptoms when they are infected.

The Spread of West Nile Virus

In most cases the virus is spread due to being bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes catch the infection when they have bitten infected birds.

The virus is also spread in a very few cases through organ transplants, blood transfusions and breastfeeding. There have also been some reports of the virus being spread from mum to baby during pregnancy. It cannot be spread through kissing or touching a person who has the virus.

Timescales for appearance of symptoms

It appears that people who have been bitten by a mosquito carrying the infection tend to develop symptoms 3 to 14 days after the bite has happened.

Treatment

No particular treatment is available for the virus. The milder symptoms of aches and fevers generally disappear over time. In the more severe cases, admittance to hospital may be necessary as breathing aids and intravenous drips may be required.

What to do if symptoms of West Nile Virus appear?

The mild symptoms tend to disappear over time. Medical attention may not be necessary. Severe symptoms of confusion and relentless headaches may appear, in these cases medical attention is required. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and have symptoms of the virus, contact your doctor.

Associated Risks of West Nile Virus

People over 50 years of age should take extra care to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes as they are more prone to developing serious symptoms.

The more time spent outdoors playing or working raises the risk of being bitten by infected mosquitoes. Be aware of the risks and apply all the necessary insect and mosquito repellents as required.

The risk of being infected because of organ transplants and blood transfusions is very low. The donated blood is tested for the virus before it is given to patients.

It is in the process of being assessed whether the virus may infect the fetus or an infant who is being breastfed.

Avoid touching dead birds and contact he local health department if you see any. They can provide instructions on the procedure for reporting and disposal of the dead bird.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC is the American Government Agency which is responsible for the prevention of new cases of the virus. The CDC works with government agencies, the FDA, local health and state department and also private industry.

Other areas in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working on are the development of better, quicker tests for detection and diagnoses of the virus and opening new laboratories with testing facilities for the virus. The CDC is also involved in coordinating a nationwide electronic database where all states share information regarding the West Nile Virus. CDC is also developing a vaccine.

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