West Nile Virus

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

West Nile Virus Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideWest Nile Virus Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

West Nile Virus Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What can a community do to reduce the risk of an outbreak of the West Nile virus?

First, a community can monitor the bird population for the virus; this includes surveillance of birds that are sick or have died of disease.

Second, the community can watch out for stagnant water, particularly if it is nutrient-laden; it is inviting for Culex mosquitoes.

Third, widespread mosquito-control efforts, including the use of spraying and larvacide, may be warranted for prevention of West Nile virus infection. However, even with rigorous surveillance, spraying, and larvaciding, the virus may still infect people.

What can a person do to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the West Nile virus?

The following recommendations can help reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus:

  • Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
  • Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin. An effective repellent contains 20%-30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET in high concentrations (greater than 30%) may cause side effects, particularly in children and babies. Avoid products containing more than 30% DEET.
  • Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellent to the hands of children. Insect repellents should not be applied to very young children (under 3 years of age) or babies.
  • Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing.
  • Whenever using an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use, as printed on the product.
  • Take preventive measures in and around your home. Repair or install door and window screens, use air conditioning, and reduce breeding sites (eliminate standing water).
  • If someone finds a dead bird, the CDC recommends not handling the carcass with bare hands. Contact a local health department for instructions for the notification procedure and disposing of the carcass. After logging a report, they may tell you to dispose of the bird.
  • Note: Vitamin B and "ultrasonic" devices are not effective in preventing mosquito bites.

REFERENCES:

Dunham, Will. "U.S. West Nile Virus Cases, Deaths Rose in 2006." June 7, 2007." <http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0718979120070607>.

Johnston, B. Lynn, and John M. Conly. "West Nile Virus - Where Did It Come From and Where Might It Go?" Can J Infect Dis. 11.4 July-Aug. 2000: 175-178. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2094770/>.

Kennedy, Kristy. "Calming West Nile Fears." American Academy of Pediatrics. Sept. 2002. <http://www.aap.org/family/wnv-sept02.htm>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Long-Term Prognosis for Clinical West Nile Virus Infection." <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/Eid/vol10no8/03-0879.htm#table3>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2011 West Nile Virus Human Infections in the United States." Aug. 16, 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/surv&controlCaseCount11_detailed.htm>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2012 West Nile Virus Update: As of August 21." Aug. 24, 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "West Nile, a Pregnancy Danger?" Feb. 28, 2004. <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=31127>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "West Nile Virus." Aug. 8, 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/Features/WestNileVirus/>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "West Nile Virus (WNV) Activity Reported to ArboNET, by State, United States, 2011." Aug. 16, 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/Mapsactivity/surv&control11MapsAnybyState.htm>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "West Nile Virus and Dead Birds." Feb. 25, 2010. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/wnv_birds.htm>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "West Nile Virus, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding." Feb. 25, 2010. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/breastfeeding.htm>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2015

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