West Nile Virus, causes and symptoms

November 12, 2012

West Nile Virus, causes and symptoms

The West Nile Virus is a disease spread by mosquitoes and was first identified in the eastern Africa country of Uganda. This was in 1937 but by 1999 it had made its way to the United States being discovered first in New York and has subsequently spread around the country.

The numbers of diagnosed cases each year usually peaks in August and September and researchers believe that this is because it is during the fall time when mosquitoes are carrying the highest levels of the West Nile disease. It is thought that the spreading of the disease occurs when a mosquito bites an infected bird before biting a person. The likelihood of becoming infected declines as winter draws closer as mosquitoes die off in the cold weather.

People who have been bitten by an infected mosquito can have very varied reactions from no symptoms whatsoever to developing a severe and in some cases even life-threatening disease. Many people continue completely unaware that they have been bitten at all but there are some people who are at a higher risk of developing a serious virus. Anyone suffering from a medical condition, which weakens the immune system such as a HIV, a chemotherapy patient or anyone who has recently has an organ transplant are more likely to get the virus as their bodies are weaker. Other people at risk include the young, the elderly and pregnant women.

West Nile virus can be spread to a child through breast-feeding if the mother is infected. It can also be spread during organ transplants and blood transfusions.

The milder version of the disease, commonly known as West Nile fever may produce such symptoms as vomiting, sore throat, rash, fever, diarrhoea, muscles aches, abdominal pain and headache and usually last for no longer than a week. West Nile meningitis or West Nile encephalitis are known names for the more severe form of the disease. Symptoms including muscle weakness, confusion, loss of ability to think clearly and even loss of consciousness can occur and should be promptly dealt with by a doctor.

Although the symptoms of West Nile infection are similar to those of other virusÂ’ one symptom, which is more common in this disease is a rash, which over half of the patients diagnosed develop. In order to be accurately diagnosed you will require a serology test, which checks your blood for anti bodies. As West Nile is not a bacterial infection, it cannot be treated with antibiotics, however hospital care can help prevent further complications.

Patients who develop the mild West Nile virus infection will make a full and fast recovery. Individuals who have one of the severe forms face more uncertainty as the disease could lead to problems in the brain. Of those who suffer from brain inflammation, roughly 10% do not survive. For those who do survive complications could arise, leading to brain damage or permanent muscle weakness.

If you have recently been in contact with mosquitoes and are experiencing any side effects of West Nile make an appointment with your doctor or go straight to hospital if you think it is serious. Generally, healthy people do not get infected but in order to protect yourself further avoid mosquito bites by applying mosquito repellent and wearing long sleeve shirts and pants.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Articles