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Important Information About West Nile Virus

8/13/2012

West Nile Virus (WNV) has returned to the Ark-La-Tex. Willis-Knighton Infection Prevention and Control experts indicate this year’s rain, in contrast to last year’s drought, is responsible for the increase in the disease.

West Nile Virus is a potentially serious illness that typically flares up during the summer months. “West Nile Virus is spread to humans by the bite from an infected mosquito, which has fed on an infected bird,” says Lisa Stamper, Director of Willis-Knighton’s Infection Prevention and Control Department. “Mosquitoes breed in warm, wet weather, which we’ve had a lot of here this summer. WNV is not spread through casual contact. You cannot get WNV from a person who has the virus.”

Some of the symptoms of WNV might include: High fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, convulsions, vision loss and paralysis. Stamper says the neurological effects may be permanent, and that people over age 50 are more likely to develop serious illness.

As with most viruses or diseases, prevention is essential to avoid acquiring WNV. Stamper recommends the following preventive measures: 

  • Stay indoors at dusk, dawn and early evening when mosquitoes are most active
  • Despite the heat, try to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you are outdoors to avoid exposing skin to mosquito bites
  • Use insect repellent which contains 35% DEET 
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites such as standing water in flower pots, buckets and bird baths
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes frequently.

“There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus,” she says. “Mild cases go unnoticed and more severe cases need to be hospitalized. Patients do not require any special isolation just standard precautions.”

To find out more about West Nile Virus search our health library for West Nile Virus.

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