What is West Nile Virus?

west nileThere are a lot of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, and one of them is the West Nile virus or WNV. The virus belongs to the family of Flaviviridae, the same family the dengue virus belongs to, and can be found in the tropics as well as in the temperate regions.

The virus is more common in birds, but every now and then the virus has been known to be transmitted to humans and in animals like horses, dogs, cats, bats, and domestic rabbits. 

The Culex species of mosquito is responsible for spreading the disease to humans, although infection can be relatively low compared to other diseases. In the US, the Culex pipiens is the primary species that can spread the disease in the Eastern part of the country, Culex tarsalis in the Midwest and West, and Culex quinquefasciatus in the Southeast region.

The mosquitoes get the virus by feeding on infected birds. The virus spread through our bloodstream and have varying effect, the most serious of which is encephalitis in the brain.

It is more common that infections of the West Nile virus result to mild illnesses such as skin rash, swollen glands, fever, headaches, and body aches. Usually the symptoms are gone within 7-10 days from the first signs of the symptoms.

Although rare, there’s still a chance that infection from the West Nile virus develops into West Nile meningitis or encephalitis, which is a neuroinvasive disease that affects the whole nervous system.

At first, infected individuals manifest the same symptoms of headaches, rash, fever, and headaches. But later on, high fevers, neck stiffness, disorientation, and sometimes convulsions began to appear. Then finally the patient will experience a weakened level of consciousness, some even nearing a state of coma.

No specific treatment exists for West Nile encephalitis. What we can do is subject the patient to supportive therapy which basically means early detection, hospitalization, intravenous fluids, and providing respiratory support. There’s no vaccine available to date nor treatment with antibiotics will work.

The best way is to prevent infection. Avoid areas where and when mosquitoes are active. Protect your home with screen doors and windows. If it is necessary to go outdoors, long sleeve shirts or jackets should be worn to limit skin exposure. Remove area near your home where mosquito are most likely to breed.

West Nile virus infections have been identified to occur in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, west and central Asia, Oceania, and North America.

An outbreak of West Nile virus encephalitis in humans occurred in Algeria in 1994, then two years later i happened in Romania. In 1997 the Czech Republic had to deal with a similar outbreak and in Congo in 1998. Russia faced the same problems in 1999, as well the US from 1999 to 2003.

In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) verified that the West Nile virus infected about 4,000 Americans throughout the country, 149 of those cases ended with death.

Image Source: Wikipedia

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