The One About West Nile Virus

There is currently a lot of talk in the news, particularly here in Texas, about West Nile virus.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is a viral infection that gets transmitted to humans when an infected mosquito bites a person.  It is not transferred person to person.  Most people (about 80%) who get infected by West Nile virus will have no symptoms at all.  Some people (about 20%) will have relatively mild symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes rash.  Very few people (about 1 in 150 people infected by West Nile virus) will develop severe symptoms including high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, confusion and other neurologic abnormalities that can be quite severe.  Elderly persons are at greatest risk of severe infection.

Treatment

As with most viral infections, there is no specific treatment for West Nile virus.  Those who develop mild infection will get better without treatment.  The small percentage of people with severe symptoms will need in hospital care.

Prevention is key!

–          Get rid of standing water.  This is where mosquitoes breed.

–          Use bug spray containing DEET when outside.

–          Avoid being outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

–          Wear long pants and long sleeves if possible when you do need to be outside at dawn or dusk.

In short, West Nile virus can cause severe infection in a small number of people, and the key to prevention is avoidance of mosquito bites.

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