Recognizing and Preventing the West Nile Virus

mosquito-borne diseasesThe West Nile Virus isn’t something to mess around with — it is a serious illness with multiple potential complications and no vaccine to help prevent it. That makes it essential to know how to recognize the symptoms of this disease, and even more important to know how to prevent it to begin with to protect yourself and your family from the illness’s effects.

Symptoms of West Nile

It might surprise you to learn that most people who have the West Nile Virus never exhibit any symptoms. About 80% of people who contract the virus never show even the slightest symptom, and recover without ever knowing their body was fighting off an illness. However, the symptoms experienced by that remaining 20% are often severe and debilitating, and 1% of those infected will experience complications that can be life-changing or even fatal.

The most common symptom of West Nile Virus is a fever, followed closely by headaches, joint pains, body aches, a rash, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some of these can be very uncomfortable and painful, but unfortunately there is no way to treat the virus itself; only the symptoms can be managed to help keep patients comfortable. Fatigue and weakness following recovery can often last for months.

The most serious cases of West Nile Virus will affect the patient’s brain, sometimes causing inflammation of the brain itself or the tissues surrounding it. This can lead to seizures, tremors, coma, or even paralysis. People with a compromised immune system, such as the very young, very elderly, and those with other medical conditions are most at risk for these complications.

How to Prevent West Nile

West Nile Virus has been seen in humans in 46 of the 48 contiguous states, making it important for everyone to know what causes the disease and how to prevent it. The virus is most often spread by mosquitos, often after having bitten infected birds. Because the virus is spread through  blood, it is also sometimes found in ticks, but much less often than in mosquitos.

Because the most common method of transmission is by mosquito, controlling these pests around your home and preventing bites is the best way to prevent the illness. Use personal insect repellents any time you are outside, and where long sleeves and pants when possible. Be aware that mosquitos can bite through some thin fabrics, so combining clothes with repellent is advised.

Control the number of mosquitos around and in your home by keeping the screens repaired on all doors and windows and making sure there is no standing water around outside, as this allows the pests to reproduce easily. Most importantly, speak with a pest control expert about how to establish a pest control regimen to keep insects under control both in and out of doors.

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