Mosquito Maladies – 1. West Nile Virus
This Mosquito Maladies Post Series breaks down some of the most common dangerous diseases that can be transmitted by mosquitos. In this blog, we breakdown: West Nile Virus.
** PLEASE NOTE: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always seek the advice of a doctor and/or medical treatment if necessary**
Oddly enough, West Nile virus originates from infected birds that pass on the pathogens when bit by a mosquito. Once the mosquito is contaminated, it can pass the illness on to both humans and animals. In extremely rare cases, the virus can be transmitted through a blood transfusion or an organ transplant, but this is very unlikely as donors are normally put through screening processes.
Historically, cases have been recorded in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East but began to be recognized in the United States in 1999. Risk of infection with West Nile virus increases substantially during the summer months as mosquitos are more active during the warm weather. Luckily, most people who are infected with West Nile virus will fully recover.
After contracting the disease, it can take between 2-14 days for symptoms to begin showing up. However, a majority of cases actually do not display any signs or symptoms whatsoever. In the 20% of people who will develop West Nile fever (a mild infection from the disease) they may experience:
- High fever
- Headaches and body aches
- Upset stomach
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Skin Rash
While it is very rare, roughly 1 out of every 150 people infected may develop a serious infection that attacks the neurological system resulting in encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Some negative symptoms indicative of a severe case includes:
- Significantly elevated fever
- Severe Headache
- Stiffness of the neck
- Muscle fatigue followed by partial paralysis
It is important to always seek medical help when you feel it may be necessary as the longer West Nile virus remains untreated, some of the aforementioned neurological debilitations can become permanent.
Recovery from a severe case may take up to a few months and is typically longer for those more susceptible to the disease. While risk of serious infection is only roughly 1%, people may be more likely to develop serious symptoms if they are of advanced age, or have other pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or cancer.
Currently, no vaccine or antivirals exist to eliminate West Nile. However, supportive treatments and care are available, and you can always discuss your symptoms with your health care provider to decide what the best course of action for your case is.
West Nile Virus (2020) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html (Accessed: July 2020).
West Nile Virus (2018) Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/west-nile-virus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350320 (Accessed: July 2020).