West Nile Virus: Signs, symptoms and prevention tips

West Nile Virus signs, symptoms and prevention tipsWest Nile virus (WNV) is making headlines again due to recent outbreaks around the country.

WNV is primarily spread by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds. But realize, out of 700+ species of mosquitoes in the U.S.(and 74 species in Canada), very few – less than 1% – become infected with WNV.

A vast majority of people (4 out of 5) infected with WNV won’t show any symptoms at all. For those that do, the virus usually causes fever, aches and general discomfort.

Severe cases can cause inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis), inflammation of the brain itself (encephalitis) or a polio-like syndrome that can result in loss of function of one or more limbs (WN poliomyelitis or acute flaccid paralysis). These conditions can be life-altering or fatal.

People of all ages could develop serious health effects, but seniors and individuals with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk.

Things to watch for…

(Most symptoms appear 2 to 15 days after being bitten)

Mild flu-like symptoms – fever, headache, sick to stomach (nausea) and body aches

Mild skin rash and swollen lymph glands

Severe symptoms – severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, confusion, shakes, coma, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, paralysis, meningitis or encephalitis

What to do…

  • There is no “cure” other than a body fighting off the virus naturally – mainly just watch symptoms.
  • Consider boosting immune system to help fight virus (like taking astragalus, Vitamin C, garlic, mushrooms, zinc, good multiple vitamin + mineral supplement, etc. – but check with doctor if taking prescription medications).
  • If mild symptoms appear, keep watching person for a few weeks in case symptoms get worse.
  • If severe symptoms appear, get medical attention quickly since it could become deadly.

Things to do to avoid mosquito bites …

  • Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and early evenings when mosquitoes are most active but realize mosquitoes can bite anytime (including throughout the night).
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
  • Spray clothing and exposed skin with repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) — the higher % of DEET, the longer you’re protected from bites (6.65% lasts almost 2 hours; 20% lasts about 4 hours, etc.) Two other repellents are picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Don’t put repellent on small children’s hands since it may irritate their mouths or eyes.
  • Get rid of “standing water” sources around your yard and home since they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. For example, drill a hole in tire swings so water drains out and dump water out of kiddie pools, buckets, flower pots and other items esp. after rainstorms. And change out water in pet dishes often and bird baths weekly.
  • The CDC says Vitamin B and “ultrasonic” devices are not effective in preventing mosquito bites.

Download more first aid and disaster preparedness topics from our IT’S A DISASTER!… book here

Additional Resources:

CDC’s West Nile page  www.cdc.gov/westnile

CDC NCID’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases  www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd

Public Health Agency of Canada’s Infectious Diseases  www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/id-mi/


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