You may have heard a lot about the West Nile virus a few years back. It is still around, but what do you really know about it? Here are some facts to clear up the picture a bit.
What Is the West Nile Virus?
The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. These mosquitoes carry the virus. At first, this condition was linked to people who had traveled abroad and were exposed in other countries but since we first heard about it, cases of the West Nile virus have been reported across the entire United States.
The mosquitoes pick up the virus from biting infected bird species. Once in their bodies, they can infect humans. The condition cannot be passed directly from animal to human without this intermediary host. And, it can”t be passed from one person to another just by hugging, kissing or any other physical contact.
Your risk increases greatly in certain situations. Exposure is greater in spring and summer months when mosquitoes flourish. Also, traveling abroad to humid climates or places where cases have been reported ups your risk. The greatest risk factor is simply being outdoors at these times.
Symptoms of the West Nile Virus
It needs to be known that the potential for fatalities is low. The risk of serious complication increases with age and a compromised immune system. Usually, those who have contracted the West Nile virus can recover on their own given time.
How will you know that you have been exposed? Well, any mosquito bite can potentially be from an infected mosquito. If there are recent reports of cases in your area, that risk just went up.
Here are some symptoms that you may encounter:
* Body aches
These also sound like garden variety symptoms that can occur with the flu. Only a doctor can correctly diagnose you as having come in contact with an infected mosquito. Some people who are exposed are asymptomatic. They can become infected and the virus runs its course without any significant change to their health.
In a few cases other symptoms can present themselves. They include skin rashes, eye pain and even swollen lymph glands. Again, these symptoms usually pass without anything more occurring.
If you do notice that your symptoms are accompanied by worsening symptoms and additional ones like partial paralysis, confusion and stiff neck, see your doctor right away. You could fall into the less than one percent of people who develop neurological complications. An infection in the brain can lead to encephalitis, meningitis or meningoencephalitis.
West Nile virus is contracted from infected mosquitoes that pass the virus from birds to humans. It is not usually fatal and can be treated with over-the-counter medications for the symptoms.