West Nile Virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa. It was first discovered in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York. The virus has not spread throughout the entire United States.
West Nile Virus is known as a flavivirus. It is spread by mosquitoes that first bite an infected bird then a human or healthy animal. Signs and symptoms develop within 3-14 days after being bitten.
The highest amounts of West Nile Virus are found in late August to early September. As weather cools, mosquitoes die.
Most people with West Nile Virus have no idea they have it and they never develop symptoms.
20 percent of infected people develop West Nile Virus symptoms. Most people just feel poorly for a few days to a week.
Symptoms for mild disease are:
• Abdominal pain
• Lack of appetite
• Muscle aches
• Sore throat
• Swollen lymph nodes
One percent have more serious symptoms. Severe symptoms normally develop in people with a weakened immune system (organ transplants, HIV, Chemotherapy), old age (65 years and older) or very young or pregnant. More severe forms of this disease can cause the following symptoms:
• Confusion or change in ability to think clearly.
• Loss of consciousness.
• Muscle weakness.
• Stiff neck.
• Weakness in one arm or leg.
These symptoms can last several weeks and brain and muscle damage can be permanent.
Call your health care provider if you have any of the above symptoms and have had contact with mosquitoes. If you are severely ill, go directly to the emergency room in your area.
West Nile Virus has no cure. Prevention is the best defense.
The best way to prevent West Nile Virus is to:
• Use a mosquito repellent with DEET.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants outdoors.
• Stay in at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
• Make sure door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair.
• Drain all standing water (mosquitoes breed in stagnant water).
• Apply a mosquito larvicide (Mosquito Briquets) into standing water (bird baths, drainage ditches & gutters).
Community spraying for mosquitoes may also prevent breeding.