Most people infected with West Nile virus don’t develop symptoms but about 1 in 5 people infected develop flu-like symptoms with a fever, headache, body aches, joint point, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. While most people will recover, fatigue and weakness can linger for weeks or months.
In some people, more serious symptoms can happen. About 1 in 150 people infected, develop a severe illness which can cause encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, or meningitis which causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include:
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Vision loss
If you begin experiencing any of the symptoms above it’s important to see a healthcare provider who can evaluate your symptoms and order tests to look for West Nile virus infection if needed.
If diagnosed, and depending on how severe the infection is, over the counter pain relievers can relieve symptoms. However, in serve cases, hospitalization might be necessary.
There’s currently no vaccine to protect against West Nile virus. As always, prevention is the best defense against the disease, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following to avoid mosquito bites:
- Apply and reapply insect repellent as directed (DEET is not recommended for infants under 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) is not recommended for children under 3years old).
- Dress yourself and children in long sleeves and pants when outdoors where there are mosquitoes present.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting. Sleep in a zipped tent when camping.
- Use tightly fitting screens on windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers. Check inside and outside your home for any free-standing water as mosquitoes lay eggs in and around stagnant water.
Don't be afraid to enjoy the outdoors. Taking a few simple preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites will ensure you're able linger longer in nature with the peace of mind you’re protected.