West Nile Virus (July, 2013)

West Nile Virus is a virus that is transmitted to humans from infected mosquitoes. This virus can cause illness which may present with fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or rash. Occasionally this virus can cause more serious illness, including encephalitis and meningitis. There is no cure for West Nile Virus once a person contracts the virus. Preventing infection is the key. As this virus is transmitted through mosquitoes, active prevention of mosquito bites is recommended. Most cases of West Nile Virus infection occur June through September. The following precautions should be taken.

  • Use of insect repellants when outdoors, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active:
    • Use of EPA registered insecticides is recommended.
    • DEET, picardin IR 3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and para-methane-diol products all provide protection and are preferred insecticide- check product labels for active ingredients.
    • Always apply and reapply the insecticide according to label directions.
    • Exposed skin and outer layer of clothing should be treated. Do not treat skin underneath clothing.
  • Wear protective clothing when the weather allows. Long pants and long sleeves will help decrease the chance of mosquito bites.
  • Assure that all window screens are installed and in good repair to protect the home or other buildings from mosquitoes.

Only about 1 in 5 individuals who become infected with West Nile Virus will develop symptoms of illness. Individuals over 60 years of age are at higher risk of more severe illness.

Individuals who develop signs or symptoms of febrile illness should be treated symptomatically as there is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus other than supportive measures. Use of fever reducing medications and analgesics will help for most mild symptoms.

If an individual presents with signs of severe illness- high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, seizures, or tremors- immediate medical attention should be sought.