During the summer, all you and your family want to do is spend time outside, especially in the cooler evening hours, but that's when West Nile Virus is most often transmitted from mosquitoes to humans.
It's important to protect yourself against the virus by wearing mosquito repellent with DEET, draining standing water that serves as mosquito breeding ground, and keeping window screens in good repair.
What is West Nile Virus?
The disease originated in Africa and has spread to West Asia, the Middle East and North America. The first case of West Nile Virus in North America was in New York in 1999. It has since spread to all 48 continental United States, Mexico and Canada. Infected mosquitoes are the most common form of transmission. You can't become infected through casual contact, such as touching another person's mosquito bite or breathing in the virus.
What are the Symptoms?
West Nile Virus affects the nervous system, but symptoms vary for different people. In fact, about 80 percent of people with West Nile Virus have no symptoms at all. Then, up to 20 percent of people display mild symptoms, such as body aches, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes a skin rash or swollen lymph gland occurs. Less than 1 percent of people with West Nile virus develop a serious neurological illness such as brain inflammation. Severe symptoms of brain inflammation include high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, paralysis and coma. The people most likely to experience severe symptoms include the elderly and those with cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure or a compromised immune system. Symptoms may last for several weeks or months, and the neurological effects may be permanent or even fatal.
What are the Treatment Options?
A vaccine does not exist for West Nile Virus, nor does anti-viral medication or a set treatment method. In the more common, milder cases, symptoms pass on their own. For severe cases, people are often admitted to the hospital where they receive treatment that includes pain medication, intravenous fluids, breathing assistance and nursing care.
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