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West Nile virus (WNV) is an infectious disease that first appeared in the United States in 1999. Infected mosquitoes spread the virus that causes it. People who get WNV usually have no symptoms or mild symptoms. The symptoms include a fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. They can last a few days to several weeks, and usually go away on their own.

If West Nile virus enters the brain, however, it can be life-threatening. It may cause inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis, or inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called meningitis. A physical exam, health history and laboratory tests can diagnose it.

Older people and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. There are no specific vaccines or treatments for human WNV disease. The best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets or barrels
  • Stay indoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Use screens on windows to keep mosquitoes out

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Symptoms of West Nile Virus

The following features are indicative of West Nile Virus:
  • fever
  • headache
  • body ache
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • skin rash
  • stiff neck
  • confusion
  • coma
  • seizures
  • muscle weakness
It is possible that West Nile Virus shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.

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Common Causes of West Nile Virus

The following are the most common causes of West Nile Virus:
  • West Nile virus

Risk Factors for West Nile Virus

The following factors may increase the likelihood of West Nile Virus:
  • older age
  • being males
  • hypertension
  • diabetes mellitus
  • patient history of organ transplantation
  • patients with weakened immune system

Prevention of West Nile Virus

Yes, it may be possible to prevent West Nile Virus. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid exposure to mosquitoes
  • change water in birdbaths and pet bowls regularly
  • eliminate standing water on pool covers

Occurrence of West Nile Virus

Number of Cases

The following are the number of West Nile Virus cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

West Nile Virus can occur at any age.

Common Gender

West Nile Virus can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of West Nile Virus

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect West Nile Virus:
  • Blood test: To determine the level of antibodies to the West Nile virus in your blood
  • Lumbar puncture: To analyze the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord
  • Electroencephalography: To measure your brain's activity
  • Magnetic resonance imaging scan: To detect brain inflammation

Doctor for Diagnosis of West Nile Virus

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of West Nile Virus:
  • Infectious disease specialist

Complications of West Nile Virus if untreated

Yes, West Nile Virus causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if West Nile Virus is left untreated:
  • inflammation of the spinal cord or brain

Procedures for Treatment of West Nile Virus

The following procedures are used to treat West Nile Virus:
  • Supportive therapy with intravenous fluids: Helps in recovering from West Nile virus
  • Interferon therapy: Helps in treating encephalitis caused by West Nile virus

Self-care for West Nile Virus

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of West Nile Virus:
  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity: Helps in preventing West Nile virus
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors: Provides protection against the mosquito bites
  • Use insect repellent: Helps in lowering the exposure to mosquitoes

Patient Support for Treatment of West Nile Virus

The following actions may help West Nile Virus patients:
  • Education: Provides information about the disease and helps in prevention of human West Nile virus infection

Time for Treatment of West Nile Virus

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for West Nile Virus to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 4 weeks

Is West Nile Virus Infectious?

Yes, West Nile Virus is known to be infectious. It can spread across people via the following means:
  • infected organ transplant
  • blood transfusion

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for West Nile Virus.

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