What is West Nile Virus? Here’s What You Should Know About This Deadly Pathogen
West Nile virus (Photo Credits: Flickr, NIH)

Many states in North America have been reporting cases of infection known as the West Nile Virus. The virus belongs to flavivirus genus and the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex. The pathogen is commonly spread to people through mosquito bites during summer and all throughout fall. According to reports, many other countries in the European Union, Serbia and Israel have also seen outbreaks of the disease due to the migration of infected birds across the northern hemisphere.

According to the World Health Organisation website, the virus was first isolated in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937. The largest outbreak of the disease happened in Greece, Israel, Romania, Russia and USA along the migratory routes of birds. What is Nipah Virus? How it Spreads, Symptoms & Preventive Measures.

Although mosquitoes are the carriers of the West Nile virus, they harbour the pathogen when they feed on the blood of infected birds. If the virus finds its way into the human bloodstream, West Nile virus can cause fatal neurological diseases. Here’s what you should know about the West Nile virus.

Signs and Symptoms of West Nile Virus

In 80 percent of the cases of West Nile virus, the infected won’t show any symptoms. But the rest 20 percent may exhibit some signs. Ebola Outbreak In Congo: 3 New Deaths As The Country Faces Its 10th Outbreak.

• Fever

• Headache

• Tiredness

• Fatigue

• Body aches

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Skin rash

The more severe form of the disease called neuroinvasive disease or West Nile encephalitis or meningitis has more serious symptoms. And it affects one in every 150 people with West Nile virus.

• Headache

• High fever

• Neck stiffness

• Stupor

• Disorientation

• Coma

• Tremors

• Convulsions

• Muscle weakness

• Paralysis

How is West Nile Virus Treated?

The West Nile virus can be diagnosed by certain tests such as IgG antibody seroconversion and virus isolation. But as of today, there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for the disease. In severe cases, patients are given supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids and pain medications.

How Can One Prevent West Nile Virus?

Creating awareness among the people may be the best weapon against the West Nile virus. People should be educated about the ways to reduce exposure to the virus.

• Reducing exposure to mosquitoes by wearing full-sleeved clothes and long trousers covering the legs

• Using mosquito repellents

• Wearing light-coloured clothing

• Using protective gear such as gloves while handling animals

• Using mosquito nets to cover windows and other outlets through which mosquitos can enter

Till date, no human-to-human transmission of West Nile virus has been reported through casual contact. When standard infection control precautions are put in place, no transfer of the virus has been reported even to health care workers. But in the absence of vaccines and specialised treatment methods, the only way to curb the menace of West Nile virus is through awareness and prevention.

(References: CDC; World Health Organization)