Symptoms of West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that may cause serious illness, like meningitis and encephalitis, or sometimes death.

It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, which first got the infection from biting a bird carrying the virus. Nevertheless, WNV does not spread through body-to-body contact.

Although in the outbreak last year, people that were infected with the virus did not have illness or did not show symptoms. They only exhibited mild forms of illness before recovering fully. This is usually the case with most people infected.

Sometimes symptoms are so mild that they do not get easily noticed or are undetected. These mild cases include flu-like symptoms which may be in the form of fever, headaches and body aches. Mild rash or swollen lymph glands may also develop in some people.

But as soon as the infection causes the illness, symptoms are expected to appear in a span of two to fifteen days. The extent and severity of the symptoms may also vary from person to person. The overall risks of WNV to the overall health of each person increase with age.

Individuals that have weaker immune systems have greater risks of developing more serious symptoms. People that have higher risks of serious health effects are those suffering from chronic diseases and those that require medical treatment, like chemotherapy, that weakens the immune system.

WNV can cause severe infections which may lead to diseases affecting brain tissues. Moreover its most serious conditions may cause permanent neurological damage and may prove to be fatal. Such damages include meningitis (the inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord) or encephalitis (the inflammation of the brain itself).

The symptoms for encephalitis are high fever, rapid onset of severe headache, stiff neck, loss of consciousness or coma, and weakness of the muscles. In some instances, death may occur.

Anyone who experiences the sudden onset of the abovementioned conditions should seek medical attention immediately. It is estimated that one in every 150 persons infected with WNV will develop more severe forms of the disease. Although there is still no treatment for viral infections, such symptoms should be treated and given immediate care.

WNV can bring severe complications to people of any age and health status. It is highly important to minimize the risks of getting bitten by mosquitoes. Exposure to mosquitoes in areas where WNV has been detected should be avoided so as to prevent the risks of infection.

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