A virus spread by mosquitoes causes the majority of West Nile infections. Most West Nile virus patients either show no symptoms or have moderate ones, such as a fever and a mild headache. However, some persons experience a fatal condition that causes brain or spinal cord inflammation.
Mild West Nile virus signs and symptoms typically go away on their own. However, serious symptoms like a severe headache, fever, confusion, or abrupt weakness require immediate medical attention.
When exposed to mosquitoes in those places, your risk of developing the West Nile virus doubles. Applying insect repellent and clothing that protects your skin will help you prevent mosquito bites, lowering your risk.
In the West Nile region of Uganda, the West Nile virus was initially discovered by scientists in 1937. Today, it is spread throughout many continents, including all but Hawaii and Alaska of the contiguous United States.
West Nile Virus Origin
West Nile virus history: In 1937, a woman in Uganda’s West Nile district became the first person to contract the West Nile Virus (WNV). In the Nile delta region, it was discovered in birds (crows and Columbiformes) in 1953. Before 1997, WNV was not thought to be harmful to birds, but at that time, a more virulent strain in Israel killed several species of birds and showed symptoms of encephalitis and paralysis. In addition, numerous nations have documented WNV-related human infections for over 50 years.
The first signs of the West Nile virus usually appear three to fourteen days after being bitten. A severe infection may persist for some weeks. Rarely a serious condition can harm the brain permanently. Typically, a minor illness doesn’t stay as long. West Nile virus in milder versions can be mistaken for the flu. These West Nile virus symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Swollen Lymph Glands
- Rash on your Chest, Stomach, or Back
However, the intensity of West Nile virus symptoms varies. Severe signs may include:
- Muscle Weakness
- Vision Loss
Numerous people experience mosquito bites. However, the West Nile virus rarely causes illness. Only one in five West Nile virus victims exhibit any symptoms. Most persons with symptoms have mild aches and pains similar to influenza (the flu). Less than 1% of the time, the West Nile virus results in a potentially fatal illness that can leave victims very ill.
Infected mosquitoes typically spread the West Nile virus. However, the mosquito bites an infected bird before biting a person or animal. Rarely can the virus spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, nursing, or pregnancy. In addition, no one can contract the West Nile virus via kissing or touching another individual.
Most West Nile virus infections occur during heavy mosquito activity in warm weather. The incubation phase, often known as the symptom onset period, occurs four to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe have all seen the spread of the West Nile virus. Since then, it has been reported in every state except Hawaii, Alaska, and Canada. It first surfaced in the United States in the summer of 1999.
Some suggest that the West Nile virus may have spread via blood transfusions and organ transplants. However, the danger of infection from blood transfusions is significantly decreased because of the screening of blood donors for the virus. There have also been isolated cases of the virus spreading from mother to kid through pregnancy, lactation, or lab exposure, but these are uncommon.
West Nile Virus Diagnosis
Most of the time, a straightforward blood test can help your doctor identify the West Nile virus. This can reveal whether you have West Nile virus-related genetic material or antibodies in your blood.
Your doctor could recommend a lumbar puncture if your symptoms are severe and thought to be brain-related. In this procedure, which is often referred to as a spinal tap, a needle is inserted into your spine to draw fluid out. The fluid’s white blood cell count may increase due to West Nile virus infection, signaling an infection. Brain edema and inflammation can also be found using MRIs and other imaging tests.
West Nile Virus Treatment
West Nile virus is a viral disease. Hence there is no known treatment. However, you can take over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin to treat West Nile virus symptoms, including headaches and muscle aches.
Your doctor could administer intravenous fluids and drugs to reduce the risk of infections if you have severe symptoms, such as brain swelling.
Interferon treatment is now the subject of research for the West Nile virus. Interferon therapy uses immune system-produced chemicals to treat encephalitis in West Nile virus-infected patients. The utility of these medicines for encephalitis is still under investigation, but findings seem encouraging.
A blood test may reveal increasing West Nile virus antibody levels if infected. Immune system proteins called antibodies fight external invaders like viruses. A subsequent test may be necessary a few weeks later to demonstrate the increasing amount of antibodies, as a blood test may first fail to detect antibodies.
1. Spinal Tap (Lumbar Puncture)
Cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds your brain and spinal cord, can be examined to diagnose meningitis. First, your lower spine’s lower vertebrae are punctured with a needle to obtain a sample of fluid for laboratory analysis. The fluid sample may reveal West Nile virus antibodies and an elevated white blood cell count, which means the body is fighting an infection. Another test might be performed a few weeks later if the sample doesn’t demonstrate antibodies.
2. Brain Tests
To help identify brain inflammation, doctors occasionally prescribe electroencephalography (EEG), a treatment that measures the activity of your brain, or an MRI scan.
The Final Word
Although there is a West Nile virus vaccine for horses against the West Nile virus, there is none for humans. Survival during a West Nile virus infection, particularly a severe one, depends on supportive care. Any experience with the above symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you know you just had a mosquito bite or visited an area with lots of mosquitoes. You’ll most likely recover fully and rapidly from a West Nile virus infection. However, the best method to ensure that your symptoms stay moderate is to seek urgent and frequent medical attention, notably if you have certain risk factors, such as old age or specific medical disorders.