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What Is West Nile Fever? Know The Symptoms, Prevention And More

West Nile Fever: This virus has no vaccination or cures available currently. The symptoms can be managed and improved with the help of medications such as paracetamol or aspirin.

What Is West Nile Fever? Know The Symptoms, Prevention And More

West Nile Virus: It is a viral disease spread via mosquito bite of an infected mosquito

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is a viral disease spread to humans via mosquito bite of an infected mosquito. It is an RNA-based single-stranded virus of the flavivirus genus of the family Flaviviridae. It usually occurs in monsoons when mosquitos are given a breeding ground due to the rainwater. The mortality rate because of WNV is low. Most people infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms. 

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of WNV can be high fever, rashes, itchiness, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Patients are suggested bed-rest for 1-3 weeks, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Why is the west Nile virus suddenly drawing attention?

The west Nile virus is being held responsible for the death of a 47-year-old man in Kerala, Thrissur district. This incident has raised many eyebrows since viruses have built a threatening reputation due to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. 

Is it threatening?

Only 1 out of 5 cases of WNV develops severe symptoms. The rest remain asymptomatic. Generally, the virus is non-life-threatening. Many people recover from mild symptoms in a matter of days. It can be a life-threatening disease if the virus spreads to the brain. Entering the brain, WNV can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. It might cause inflammation in the outer tissue around the brain known as meninges, causing meningitis.  

The disease has a low mortality rate among children and young adults. However, it can lead to severe problems for older people or people with autoimmune diseases. People suffering from kidney problems, diabetes, cancer, or high blood pressure have a higher risk of developing symptoms.

How is it spread?

West Nile Virus spreads to humans through infected mosquitoes. The mosquito bites an infected bird or animal first, getting the virus in its bloodstream. There are rare cases where the virus spreads via blood transfusions, breastfeeding, or organ transplants. It is not a communicable disease and cannot be spread via touching or being near an infected person. 

Physician Dr. Balamurgan, a resident of Kerala suggests "Birds are natural hosts of the West Nile virus. 
Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds and the virus circulates in their blood for a few days eventually reaching the mosquito's salivary glands. Mosquito bites then transfer the virus to humans and animals, where it can multiply and possibly cause illness."

How is it diagnosed?

The first sign of the virus can be a high fever or a red splotchy rash breaking out all over your skin. Body aches or headaches are other symptoms. If the patient shows severe brain-related problems, consult a physician immediately. A professional diagnosis is given after taking a blood sample. The blood or spinal fluid is checked for WBC count. A higher white blood cell count indicates the virus has spread. MRI scans or brain imaging help detect the severity of inflammation in the brain as well as look for any swelling.

What are the treatment options?

This virus has no vaccination or cures available currently. The symptoms can be managed and improved with the help of medications such as paracetamol or aspirin. Painkillers and fever medicines available at your nearest pharmacy are the first line of medication. 
If the symptoms are severe and the brain has been infected, immediately contact your nearest hospital. 
Intravenous medication and fluids help with the recovery, and constant monitoring is advisable for symptoms of meningitis or brain swelling. 

Should we be worried?

The last case of death due to this virus was recorded to be of a 7-year-old in Kerala in April of 2019. As discussed above, most cases of west Nile virus may go undetected as the virus may not show any symptoms. Hence, the best way to stay protected from the virus is to stay clear of stagnant water bodies and local birds. Dr. Balamurgan assures "Most of those infected will not show any symptoms. Very few develop fatal neurological disease in humans. It's not life threatening."

In conclusion, prevention is better than cure. As the symptoms of this disease vary in severity, diagnosing as well as treating this virus may be confusing. The best way to avoid coming in contact with the virus is to maintain cleanliness and not let stagnant water unattended for long periods. These precautionary steps can help you in staying protected from various other infections as well.

Prevention is possible.
As there is no possible study showing the virus can be spread through physical contact, isolation is not necessary for the patient.

This is a mosquito-borne disease and the best way to prevent it is to prevent mosquito bites.

-Wear full-sleeved pants and shirts when going out during the monsoon season. Use mosquito repellent gel or spray on your skin. 

-Remove any standing clean water present in your home or your surroundings.

-Close windows or doors in the evening and use electric mosquito repellents at home.

-Protect young children from mosquito bites by using nets around beds or strollers on afternoon walks. 

-Keep your surroundings clean to prevent mosquitoes. 

WNV is a seasonal virus that is most dangerous during the monsoon season. Preventative actions against mosquitoes and quick response to symptoms are important to protect the disease from worsening. Dr. Balamurgan adds "The only way to prevent this is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites."

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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