Fortunately, most people infected with the West Nile virus do not feel sick (about 70 to 80 percent of infections are asymptomatic).
Only one in five infected people have a fever and other symptoms. Less than one percent (about 1 in 150) of the infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness that manifests as muscle weakness or paralysis, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord), and/or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
People who are at a high risk of serious complications include:
- Those who are older than 60 years of age
- Organ transplant recipients
- Those with immunosuppressive conditions such as human immunodeficiency virus, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, and cancer
- Those on immunosuppressant therapy
What is West Nile fever?
West Nile virus (WNV) fever is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States and is declared as a notifiable disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected culex or anopheles mosquito bites are vectors for the virus.
Although the peak season for WNV cases differs in various US states, cases of WNV occur mostly during the summer and continue through fall. The disease does not occur with the human-to-human transmission, which means an infected person will not infect other humans.
What are the signs of West Nile virus?
Symptoms of the disease are seen after an incubation period of two to six days and most commonly present as:
- Vague headache
- Body pain
- Myalgia (muscle pain)
- Arthralgia (joint pain)
- A transient reddish rash over the body
Signs of the serious disease include:
- Development of meningitis: Headache, neck stiffness, high fever, sensitivity to light, irritability, and convulsions
- Development of encephalitis: High fever, headache, abnormal posture, abnormal involuntary movements of the limbs, change in personality, seizures/convulsions, disorientation, and coma
- Acute flaccid paralysis: Inability to move the limb
What are the long-term effects of West Nile virus?
Long-term effects on people who survive the West Nile virus are still under research. Younger age, however, is a positive factor when it comes to long-term recovery and prognosis.
Although most people recover completely, some report that arthralgia and fatigue may persist for months after the infection.
In a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many survivors reported the following even 12 months after infection:
- constant muscle weakness,
- lack of concentration,
- confusion, and
- feeling lightheaded.
Others reported repeated headaches, memory fog, and inability to recollect names of things and people.
Can you get West Nile virus twice?
In most cases, the infection provides you with lifelong immunity.
Most doctors agree that it is not common to get the West Nile virus (WNV) twice. However, WNV may persist for years in the kidneys, brain, spinal fluid, and blood of people who were immunocompromised.
These people may continue to get symptoms such as fatigue and memory issues.
How do you get rid of West Nile virus?
Because there is neither medicine nor vaccine to prevent West Nile virus (WNV), prevention and mosquito control is the best possible cure against WNF. The disease is managed symptomatically.
- Hydration and rest are the cornerstones of therapy.
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are given for fever and myalgia.
- Multivitamins may be prescribed for fatigue and brain fog.
The only way to prevent WNV is to protect yourself from mosquito bites, which can be accomplished by the following methods:
- Use of EPA–approved insect repellents:
- These include N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone and should be applied to clothes or over the skin when outdoors.
- They are safe for kids and pregnant and breastfeeding women when used as per directions.
- Exercise the following caution while using insect repellents:
- Never spray on the child’s hands, eyes and mouth.
- Never apply them over cuts or irritated skin.
- OLE and PMD are contraindicated in children younger than three years of age.
- Adults must spray the repellent on their hands and then apply it to the child’s face.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and footwear that cover the foot and ankle can help prevent mosquito bites.
- A mosquito net that covers strollers and baby carriers are important to protect babies.
- Mosquito screens:
- Use mosquito screens on windows and doors, while repairing holes in the screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors.
- When you stay in hotels, prefer rooms with air conditioning and sleep under a mosquito net.
- Mosquito control:
- To stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water, it is important to clear out stagnant water sources in or near your house.
- These include water vases, potted plants, tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers.
- You may spray these areas one time a week with insect repellents.
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