West nile symptoms

West Nile infection

West Nile infection is a viral infection that is transmitted through mosquitoes. Symptoms of infection vary amongst people. Most people experience no symptoms, while some experience minor symptoms, such as mild headache and fever. In a few cases, if there is inflammation in the brain due to the infection, which can lead to a life-threatening situation.

Usually mild symptoms go away on their own, but if there are severe ones – high fever, severe headache or excess or sudden weakness, it requires medical attention.

Modes of West Nile virus transmission

West Nile infection is caused by virus that has the same name, that is, West Nile virus. This virus does not spread with casual contact with an infected person; but rather through mosquitoes – when they transfer this virus from one infected person or animal to an uninfected person. Besides mosquitoes, the virus can also spread through other routes, such as blood transfusion and organ transplant. There is risk of virus transmission from mother to child (during pregnancy) or breastfeeding.

Symptoms of West Nile infection

Although most people have no signs or symptoms, but some cases (about 20%) feel the following:

  • Fever (called West Nile fever)
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Skin rash
  • Eye pain

In serious infected cases (less than 1%), there can be:

  • Encephalitis – inflammation in the brain
  • Meningoencephalitis – inflammation in the brain and surrounding membranes
  • Meningitis – inflammation in the brain and spinal cord
  • West Nile poliomyelitis – inflammation of the spinal cord
  • Acute flaccid paralysis – a sudden weakness in the arms, legs, or breathing muscles.

The above conditions result in the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • High fever
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Tremors or muscle jerking
  • Stupor or coma
  • Convulsions
  • Pain
  • Sudden muscle weakness or partial paralysis
  • Lack of coordination

Treatment of West Nile infection

Being a viral infection, there is no treatment for West Nile that would immediately get rid of this condition. Treatment is according to symptoms, the patient may get intravenous (IV) fluids, ventilator support for breathing etc.

Death rate in horses due to West Nile is much higher than in humans, and fortunately, West Nile virus vaccine is available for horses.

West Nile vaccine is not available for humans.

Prevention from West Nile virus

As said before, this infection spreads through mosquitoes. Hence, presence of mosquitoes increases the risk of infection with the West Nile virus. To lessen the risk, use mosquito repellant and cover the body, especially when outdoors.

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