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FAQs on West Nile Virus
What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can infect humans, birds, horses and other mammals. In most humans, West Nile virus infection causes a mild or moderate, short-lived flu-like illness, or causes no symptoms at all. However in some cases, particularly among persons 50 years of age and older, it can cause serious neurological diseases such as encephalitis, meningitis, or paralysis. West Nile virus first appeared in North America in New York City in 1999. Since then, the virus has spread across the continental United States. Visit www.cdc.gov for more information on West Nile virus nationally.
How is West Nile virus spread?
- Infected Mosquitoes. Most often, WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.
- Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child. In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
- Not through touching. WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.
What can be done to prevent West Nile Virus?
Prevention is the best defense against West Nile Virus. Haltom City residents are reminded to enjoy the outdoors, and remember the Four D’s:
- Dusk and Dawn are the times of day you should try to stay indoors. This is when infected mosquitoes are most active.
- Dress in long sleeves and pants when you’re outside. For extra protection, you may want to spray thin clothing with repellent.
- DEET is an ingredient to look for in your insect repellent. Follow label instructions, and always wear repellent when outdoors.
- Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood where mosquitoes can breed. This includes old tires, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, etc. Mosquitoes may develop in any water stagnant for more than three or four days.
What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
Most people who are infected with West Nile virus either have no symptoms (80%) or experience a mild or moderate illness with symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, or body aches before fully recovering. It is estimated that 20% of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile Fever. Of these, 1/150 persons may develop the more serious neuroinvasive West Nile.
Some persons may also develop a rash or swollen lymph glands. In some individuals, particularly persons 50 years of age and older, West Nile virus can cause serious disease that affects the brain and spinal tissue. Severe illness may include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), or acute flaccid paralysis (a polio-like syndrome in which muscles become very weak or paralyzed). Symptoms of more severe disease may include headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, confusion, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and/or paralysis. At its most serious, West Nile virus can cause permanent neurological damage and death. Among those people who need to be hospitalized for West Nile virus, 10-15% die of their illness. People who do develop symptoms normally become ill 3-15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito.
How is West Nile Virus treated?
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Most people who become infected will get better on their own. In more severe cases, intensive supportive therapy is indicated, i.e., hospitalization, intravenous (IV) fluids and nutrition, airway management, ventilator support if needed, prevention of secondary infections and proper nursing care.
Who is most at risk for getting severe West Nile virus disease from being bitten by an infected mosquito?
- People over 50 at higher risk to get severe illness. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.
- Being outside means you're at risk. The more time you're outdoors, the more time you could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Pay attention to avoiding mosquito bites if you spend a lot of time outside, either working or playing.
- Immunocompromised persons, such as persons who have received organ transplants.
How long does it take to get sick if bitten by an infected mosquito?
Most people who are infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms or experience only mild illness. If illness does occur, symptoms generally appear between 3 to 15 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Can you get West Nile virus directly from birds?
There is no evidence that a person can get the virus from handling live or dead infected birds. However, persons should avoid bare-handed contact when handling any dead animals and use gloves or double plastic bags to place the carcass in a garbage can.
What is being done to protect residents against West Nile Virus?
The City of Haltom City relies upon surveillance, both by residents and City crews, to identify and eliminate any standing water which could serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes and larvae. Typically larvae will thrive in still, shallow water less than 15 inches deep. Bird baths, pet bowls, wading pools, tire swings or any similar receptacle with standing water can serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes.
Download PDF file detailing the West Nile Virus and what Tarrant County and Haltom City are doing to monitor and educate people about it.