West Nile Virus (WNV) is a disease spread by mosquitos who bite an infected bird and then bite a person. Mosquitoes carry the highest amount of virus in the late summer/early fall, which is why the incidence peaks in August and September. If you find a dead bird, call the authorities – dead birds may be a sign that WNV is circulating in your area. WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.
Although many people are bitten by mosquitos infected with the West Nile Virus, most don’t ever know that they have been infected. Symptoms develop between 3 and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. 80% of people infected with WNV do not show any symptoms at all. About 20% of people infected have mild symptoms of fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands and rash. Symptoms usually last for a minimum of a few days. Less than 1% of people infected will develop severe illness, including high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, coma, convulsions and paralysis. There is no specific treatment for WNV, but people with severe disease should go to the hospital for supportive care, such as IV fluids and assistance with breathing, as needed.
The best way to prevent disease is the avoid mosquito bites.
The 4 D’s of West Nile Virus are:
- DEET: use insect repellent with DEET concentrations 30% or less. Be sure to wash it off when you come inside.
- Dusk/Dawn: try to avoid being outside in the early morning or evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Dress: wear long sleeves and pants. Be sure that sleeves and pants are sealed or tucked, because mosquitoes can get in any openings.
- Drain: be sure to drain any free standing water to remove places mosquitoes can breed.