West Nile Virus Strikes Again

Home News West Nile Virus Strikes Again

By Abigail Megginson

Mosquitoes are infamous for the itchy red bumps they cause us, but they also can carry and transmit viruses. One of those is the West Nile Virus (WNV).  After first being detected in North America in 1999, the WNV has spread across the U.S.

The recent outbreak of the WNV in the U.S. can be alarming at first. As of August 2014, the Center for Disease Control received 210 reports of people with WNV symptoms from 43 states and the District of Colombia.

Out of these 210, 113 were categorized as neuroinvasive disease. The top three states for reports of WNV are California (57), Louisiana (34), and Texas (30).

The West Nile Virus starts when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then transfers that virus to another bird, a horse, or a human; however, just because you don’t see symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus inside of you. One in five people who are infected with the virus will see mild symptoms after 2-14 days: fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or rash.

Although this type of WNV illness is completely curable, fatigue and weakness could last for an extensive period of time. Less than 1% of those infected will develop a neurological illness such as meningitis or encephalitis.

Of the 1% that develops a neurological disease, only 10% die from their illness. Neil Clark, a professor in the Biology Department at PSC, states that vaccinations are not cost efficient to make for the few people who do contract WNV; however, it is extremely rare to obtain a serious disease like WNV and even more rare to die from it.

Although this illness is rare, it is important to prevent the West Nile Virus as much as possible. The CDC states that eliminating standing water, spraying insect repellent on your skin and your clothes, wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active will lower your risk of contracting the disease.