West Nile virus is transmitted only by mosquitoes during summer months and generally only appears between the months of May to October.
People who experience signs or symptoms of serious illness, and have been bitten by a mosquito in the geographic area where West Nile virus is known to appear, should see their doctor immediately.
Most people with mild symptoms of low-grade fever and muscle aches do not have West Nile virus and will not require specific diagnostic testing.
Anyone who has symptoms of severe illness such as mental status changes, high fever, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, or confusion should go to the hospital's emergency department immediately. The West Nile encephalitis that occurred during the initial New York outbreak was especially notable for its severe muscle weakness. This is another important warning symptom.
Home care for people who suspect they may have become infected with West Nile virus is fairly limited. There is no specific treatment.
Mild illness does not require therapy other than
medications to reduce fever and pain. Avoid aspirin because it presents a risk for a fatal condition known as Reye syndrome, especially in children.
Anyone who has developed West Nile encephalitis should follow up with a doctor regularly to assure that recovery is taking place in an appropriate manner. The most severely affected people may take as long as 6 months to a year to recover. Some may have permanent nervous system problems.
The only way to reduce your risk of contracting West Nile virus is by avoiding contact with mosquitoes during the months of April to October. Mosquitoes are active in the early morning, from dawn until 10 am, and in the later afternoon and early evening. Limit your outdoor activities or protect yourself during those times. Take these precautions:
Make sure your doors and windows have tightly fitted screens without holes.
The prognosis of West Nile virus is directly related to the severity of the illness and the age of the person with the infection.
Those with mild infection recover fully with no permanent disability.
Death occurs in 12% of people with West Nile
encephalitis. The elderly are most at risk for death. Younger people recover much more quickly and are much less likely to show signs and symptoms of severe illness. In the New York outbreak, most cases occurred in people 50 years and older.
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