The West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is not a serious threat, but we should all still take care to protect ourselves and our families from it.

The West Nile virus is found in tropical and temperate regions. While, this virus mainly infects birds, it can also infect dogs, cats, bats, small mammals and humans. Infections in humans commonly come from infected mosquitoes. Around 90% of West Nile cases in humans do not have any symptoms.

For those who unluckily fall into the 10% who get symptoms, 9% feel as if they have the flu. The 1% develops the feelings of influenza plus far more dangerous symptoms. Shortness of breath, fatigue and loss of consciousness that something progresses in to a coma are seen. The majority of the fatalities from the West Nile Virus are from the 1% who develops severe symptoms.

The spread of the virus comes mostly from mosquitoes. Birds are also very good hosts since they can transfer the virus to different birds and to other mosquitoes that bite them. They can also spread it to humans, however it is very rare as it takes the bird actually touching the person. Mammals, including humans, do not spread the virus as it cannot multiple as proficiently in them and is therefore a “Dead-End Infection”.

While there is no vaccine for humans, it is quite easy to keep yourself safe from the virus. Staying indoors when the sun is rising or setting or right after it has rained, wearing long sleeved light coloured clothing and using mosquito repellent are all ways to help stay safe. Mosquitoes find prey by smelling out the sweat on them, so staying cool or indoors on a humid day can reduce your risk even more. Mosquitoes breed in stagnate water, so draining, filtering or keeping the water moving will disrupt their breeding patterns and help to decrease their numbers. If you have a stagnate pond on your property, adding frogs or fish will help decrease mosquitoes as they eat their larva.

In comparison to some of the other deadly diseases that mosquitoes can carry, such as Malaria, the West Nile virus has thankfully a low mortality rate and usually weak symptoms. If you believe you are infected with West Nile virus, you should seek medical attention immediately. In most cases it will simply go away in 5 to 12 days and will not be life threatening, but it is best to be safe encase it does become dangerous. The West Nile virus is not a serious threat, but we should all still take care to protect ourselves and our families from it.

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Aileen Tecson
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Posted on Aug 18, 2010