Natural Health Journals

What is West Nile virus?

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By Jamell Andrews

As many people are already aware, the West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. Some people who become infected with this disease never experience any symptoms, while others may have very mild symptoms such as a headache or skin rash. Unfortunately, there are others who wind up developing symptoms that are life-threatening.

Origins and Symptoms

The West Nile virus is actually most common in the Middle East, West Asia, and Africa. It did not appear in the United States until around 1999. Since that time, however, cases of it have been reported in almost every state in the country. Of course, any exposure to mosquitoes where this virus exists puts a person at risk of developing the illness. That is why it has become more important than ever before for people to protect themselves from potential mosquito bites.

Of the approximately 20% of the population who ultimately develop an infection from this disease, the most commonly reported mild symptoms or signs include the following:

  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Back ache
  • Lack of appetite

Most people do not develop a serious infection from the West Nile virus, but for those who do, the symptoms generally include the following:

  • Convulsions
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion and/or disorientation
  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Pain
  • Partial paralysis

In addition to mosquito bites, the West Nile virus may also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn child, blood transfusions and organ transplants, breast-feeding, and working in a laboratory where West Nile research is being conducted.

Treatment

Fortunately, most of the people who contract the West Nile virus manage to make a complete recovery without receiving any type of treatment. For the most part, even people who develop more serious cases of this disease make a full recovery through the use of intravenous fluids and a course of pain relievers.

Most health care professionals actually recommend prevention as the best form of treatment for the West Nile virus. To try to avoid being exposed to this disease, you can take the following actions.

  1. If you have a birdbath on your property, make sure the water in it is changed at least once every week.
  2. Do not leave unused swimming pools filled with water, as this attracts mosquitoes.
  3. Keep your roof gutters cleaned out so that debris and water do not accumulate in them.
  4. Do not leave any standing pools of water in your yard.
  5. Try not to spend a lot of time outside when mosquitoes are the most prevalent. These times generally include dawn, dusk, and early evening hours.
  6. If you have to be in areas that are infested with mosquitoes, always wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, regardless of how hot it is.
  7. Use mosquito repellent. You can use this on your skin and your clothes. Just make sure that you choose a concentration that is appropriate for your environment as well as the time of day that you are going to be outside.

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