Health&Fitness Talk

Supporting Healthy Life Styles

Worst Year Yet For West Nile Virus Worst Year Yet For West Nile Virus
So far this year the west Nile Virus has infected more people than in any other year since it's discovery in 1999. Usually... Worst Year Yet For West Nile Virus

by Kimberly Allen R.N.

So far this year the west Nile Virus has infected more people than in any other year since it’s discovery in 1999.  Usually the WNV peaks in mid August however so far this year 47 states have already reported infections with a total of 1,118 diagnosed cases of West Nile Virus which includes 41 deaths and the season isn’t over yet.
The West Nile Virus is a member of the Flaviviridae family which also includes the viruses responsible for yellow fever and certain tick borne diseases. The West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of certain mosquito’s, not by casual person to person contact like many other viruses.  The most common time to develop the infection is early fall which is considered to be mid to late August through early September.  Though the West Nile Virus can be deadly nearly 80% of people infected with the virus will not have any symptoms and of those that do most will have a mild form of the disease.
It usually takes approximately 14 days for symptoms of West Nile Virus to develop  after being bitten by a mosquito infected with the virus.  By far the mild infections of West Nile Virus are more common with symptoms similar to a case of the flu with fever, body aches, including headaches and swollen lymph nodes.  Fortunately the severe infections are less common.  They have more severe symptoms like a very high fever, severe headache, and neck stiffness as well as confusion, paralysis, convulsions and coma.  In addition to the immediate infection West Nile Virus  can also have long term side effects after a severe infection including memory loss and confusion.  Some people also have difficulty with fatigue and muscle weakness as well as difficulty walking and insomnia long after the initial infection.
Should you develop symptoms consistent with West Nile Virus and have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, for example if you spend alot of time outside or live near a swampy area known for mosquitoes you should contact your Dr.  Your Dr will ask you to give a detailed description of your symptoms as well as where you think you were when you were bitten.  The CDC keeps recordsof all locations where West Nile Virus has been reported so your Dr will need this information when reporting to them.  A diagnose of West Nile Virus is made after blood tests and or a spinal tap confirms it’s presence.
In most cases people are able to recover from an infection with the West Nile Virus using over the counter medications like NSAID’s  or tylenol to relieve the fever as well as the aches and pains.  The more severe cases of West Nile Virus may require hospitalization and supportive treatment.  There is no cure for West Nile Virus, however, there has been research on interferon therapy to treat encephalitis that is cause by the virus.
Prevention is always better than treating especially when it involves diseases that there is no cure for.  There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting the West Nile Virus.  Those would include removing as much standing water from your yard as possible.  That means removing any standing water in unused pools, any old tires, that may have water  and keeping the roof gutters cleaned out so they don’t hold water.  If you have any bird baths they should be changed at least once a week.  Most mosquitoes are most active at dawn, dusk and early evening so try to avoid being outdoors during these times or take precautions like wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants.  It is also a good idea to use mosquito repellants that have DEET on both your skin and clothes.  There is currently no vaccine to protect against West Nile Virus however, there continues to be research on going to develop a human vaccine.