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West Nile Symptoms - Do I Have It?
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2003E-mail this page Printer-friendly page
West Nile What?
West Nile Virus is an emerging infection that's been in the media a lot lately.
It seems to have appeared in the United States 1999, causing over 60 cases of encephalitis (infection of the brain) in New York. Seven people died. The virus was discovered in 1937 and had been known to be in several other countries before this time.
Since then, it's spread with many reported cases across the United States.How do you get it?
West Nile is transmitted by infected Mosquitoes. The best way to avoid getting it is to take steps to avoid getting bit my mosquitoes.Symptoms of West Nile
First and foremost... to put this in perspective... most people (80%) who actually get infected by the West Nile virus don't have any symptoms, and do fine.
The other (approximately) 20% may develop a short flu-like illness - including fever, headache, nausea/vomiting, muscle aches, and a loss of appetite. These symptoms can last up to a week, and then they do fine.
Only about 0.6% (1 in 150) people infected with West Nile will actually develop the serious (and dreaded) complication: Encephalitis.
Enephalitis is an infection of the brain that can cause people to become confused and may lead to their death. Associated symptoms with this form of the disease include high fevers, headache, neck stiffness and confusion. The biggest risk factor for developing West Nile Encephalitis is being elderly (over 50).
People who develop symptoms of encephalitis should seek medical care immediately.Getting Tested
While there are blood tests to see if you have been exposed to the virus, exactly how to interpret these results (in the face of only mild symptoms) is unclear.
For example, let's say you just aren't feeling that well this week, and you get a positive ("Been Exposed to West Nile") test results. Does that mean your symptoms are related to West Nile exposure or did you happen to be one of the 80% of people who were exposed, but never showed any symptoms from it?What can they do?
Unfortunately, because West-Nile is a virus it does not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics only work against bacteria.
Other specific treatments for the virus are not available, but the severely sick need hospitalized care to help support their needs while they try to get over the disease.