For the last handful of summers we have been hearing about this growing spread of “West Nile Virus”. But exactly what is West Nile Virus and how does one get it, identify it, treat it, and avoid it at all costs?
West Nile Virus Facts
- West Nile virus is an arthropod-borne virus most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes. West Nile virus can cause fever illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).
- West Nile virus was first detected in North America in 1999, and has since spread across the continental United States and Canada. In Tennessee we have confirmed 19 and 17 cases of West Nile virus in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Texas (2470) and California (1909) have had the most confirmed cases since the virus was first detected in the US in 1999. Anywhere the virus is present poses a threat to the population. So when alerted to the presence of West Nile virus by news or local officials precautions should be taken. All 48 states in the continental United States have reported cases of West Nile virus (Hawaii and Alaska have yet to have any cases).
- Most people are infected with West Nile virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes usually get their virus when feeding on an infected bird. Once a mosquito is infected they can transfer west nile virus to humans or other animals. In rare cases can the disease be transferred through a blood transfusion, organ donation, pregnancy, delivery, or breast feeding. These are extremely rare occurrences. Occurrences of West Nile virus most actively happen between the months of June and September.
- There is no vaccination for West Nile virus, but scientists and medical professionals are working on one. If you are bitten by a mosquito and become infected symptoms will show up within 2 – 14 days of introduction.
- Symptoms for West Nile virus can vary by person. Some people may have no symptoms a all, others a fever illness, and some may have severe symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.
- Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
- Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.
- Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.
- People with medical conditions such as cancer, hypertension, and kidney disease are at greater risk to develop severe symptoms due to West Nile virus.
- There is no developed treatment for West Nile virus. The common practice is to use medications to treat the symptoms of the virus. Many people will recover on their own with use of fever reducing medicines (acetaminophen). You will need to consult with a doctor to have a proper diagnosis for West Nile virus.
- You can take normal mosquito precautions around your house and traveling to avoid getting bitten by a potentially infected mosquito. To prevent mosquito bites:
- Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
- Wear long sleeves and pants from dusk through dawn when many mosquitoes are most active.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors. If you have it, use your air conditioning.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home. Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths.
If you are worried that you might have become infected then it is best to seek out professional medical treatment. If you have an issue with mosquitoes around your home, place of work, and/or playground and wish to treat for mosquitoes then give us a call. We will be happy to inspect and give a best plan for keeping the worry of mosquito bites away for summer.