West Nile Virus: The Virus That Stings

Mosquitoes have played an important role in the history of mankind – spread disease through entire populations and have even changed the course of wars. It is estimated that mosquitoes have killed more human beings than all wars, famines and natural disasters combined! Although many people think malaria when the subject of mosquito bites arise, it’s important to keep in mind another major danger — the West Nile Virus.

A swarm of mosquitoes.

A mini-swarm of mosquitoes.
Credit: Arne Halvorsen via Flickr

What is the West Nile Virus?

  • It is an arthropod-borne virus, also called arbovirus (viruses transmitted by an animal with an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages… like bugs)
  • You can get it from most places that have mosquitoes
  • Incubation period of the virus is anywhere from 2-14 days
Explanation of how it goes from a bird to a either a human or animal. Credit: CDC

The virus stems from dead animals, and transfer to birds who feed on the carcass. After a mosquito feeds on an infected bird, it will pass on the virus to future hosts.
Credit: CDC

What are the Symptoms of West Nile Virus?

  • Most people (70-80%) do not develop any symptoms
  • 1 in 5 people will usually develop some sort of fever and have symptoms ranging anywhere from headaches and body aches to vomiting and diarrhea. Most people in this category as well as the one above recover completely, but may still feel some weakness for a couple of weeks or even months.
  • Less than 1% of people develop a serious reaction to the virus which can lead to meningitis and other neurologic illnesses. The symptoms can include everything from the first two categories, with the addition of comas, tremors, and even paralysis. Most people can also recover from this stage, but about 10% of people that have this will die, so if you feel you are not recovering, please seek immediate medical attention.
Current Activity in the United States. Credit: CDC

Current Activity in the United States.
Credit: CDC

Interesting Fact: Even though Alaska has one of the highest population of mosquitoes, it is one of two states that currently does not have any recorded cases of West Nile Virus!

Prevention and control

  • Install or repair screens and windows so Mosquitoes can’t get in
  • Empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, and other places standing water might be
  • If you have a pond, please look into adding mosquitofish — they eat mosquito larvae!
  • To learn more tips, please read Control Malicious Mosquitoes!
A warning sign for people that are going to the area. Credit: IK's World Trip via Flickr

A warning sign for people that are going to the area.
Credit: IK’s World Trip via Flickr

Treatment

  • There is currently no treatment available for this virus, but scientists are actively trying to find a cure for it. Over the counter medication can be used to reduce fevers and other minor symptoms, but if you feel like you have something more severe, please see your doctor.
Scientist working on a cure. Credit: NIAID via Flickr

Scientist working on a cure.
Credit: NIAID via Flickr

For additional information, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or watch this YouTube video:

Stay Safe. Know Before™.

-The WeatherBug Team

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