Just as Lyme disease is preventable with the proper precautions in many cases, West Nile virus can be too. The news hasn’t really seemed to cause a big change in behavior and it’s important that people understand the importance of preventing the virus. People who develop West Nile virus can be left with chronic pain and other problems.
What is West Nile Virus?
West Nile virus is an illness that is spread through mosquitoes. It can’t be passed from one person to another – with one exception. People who donate blood and are found to have West Nile will have their blood discarded so it can’t be passed on to someone else.
Most people who are bitten by West Nile virus infected mosquitoes don’t get sick, but if the infection does take hold, the effects can be long lasting.
The symptoms may show up within about two weeks of being infected. They include:
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, body aches)
- Mild rash
- Swollen lymph glands
People with weaker immune systems, and this often includes the elderly, are at a higher risk of contracting the infection. They may develop symptoms such as:
- Sudden severe headache
- High fever
- Stiff neck
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of consciousness
These are signs of meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Keep in mind that although those with weaker immune systems are at higher risk, everyone can develop the infection.
For people who are infected, they may experience long-term effects such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Problems with concentration
- Memory loss
Preventing infection with West Nile virus means preventing being bitten by mosquitoes as much as possible. You should try to limit the mosquito population in your own area. This means making sure there is no still water where they can breed. Mosquitoes can breed in old flower pots that have been tucked beside a shed, old tires, stagnant puddles, unmoving birdbaths, and so on.
To keep from being bitten, here are some suggestions:
- Try not to be outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
- Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat when outdoors
- Use insect repellents
For more information on West Nile virus, check these sites:
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