West Nile Virus (WNV) is an infectious disease that first appeared in the United States in 1999, transmitted by mosquito bites that primarily spread the virus. WNV is classified as mosquito-borne zoonotic arbovirus, belonging to the genus Flavivirus in the family Flaviviridae, being the flavivirus found both in temperate and tropical regions around the globe.
At this time, there are no preventive vaccines or treatments to fight the West Nile Virus infection, but most people infected have no symptoms at all. In some cases, the virus can evolve to a fever with other symptoms, and very rarely develop neurologic illness.
The risk of getting infected with West Nile virus is influenced by the time of year: in the United States, most cases occur from July to September. Another crucial factor is the geographic zone: the virus has infected people in most of the U.S., but the highest incident rates lay in Midwestern and Southern states — particularly Texas. Also, people who work or spend time outside have more chances of being exposed to mosquito bites and contracting the disease.
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The most common way to be infected with the West Nile virus is through a mosquito bite. Very rarely, it can also be transmitted by blood transfusions, organ transplants, exposure in a laboratory setting, or from mother to baby. The West Nile virus is not transmitted from person-to-person or from animal-to-person through casual contact.
Around 70-80% of people infected by West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, but some can have febrile signs: about 1 in 5 people infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with these symptoms recover completely, although they can feel tired and weak for very long.
The possibility of developing severe symptoms is very low (less than 1%), but those who do will experience serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.
West Nile virus treatment and prevention
There are no vaccines or specific treatments for West Nile virus infection, but pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms. In serious scenarios, patients frequently need to be hospitalized in order to receive supportive treatment, like intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing attention.
The best way to avoid being infected by the West Nile virus disease is to avoid mosquito bites, using appropriate insect repellents and wearing long sleeves, pants and socks when outdoors, if weather conditions allow. Spraying clothes with repellent may give extra protection, since mosquitoes can bite through thin clothes; reinforced attention is advised from dusk to dawn, the rush hours for mosquito biting.
For at home prevention, screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside might prove helpful. Another tip is to regularly empty any standing water around your house (flowerpots, buckets, pet water dishes, etc).
West Nile Virus in Texas
Over the past decade, there have been several significant outbreaks of West Nile Virus in Texas, and researchers and health officials alike have made concerted efforts to keep a watchful eye on climate conditions and mosquito populations in the early summer months in order to accurately predict possible west Nile Virus epidemics. The result of these efforts have been several city- and state-wide efforts to establish pro-active local community-based efforts to spread the word about best practices for avoiding West Nile Virus infection and transmission.
in the summer of 2013, there was a specific focus on Dallas county as a possible epicenter of West Nile cases, and researchers and city officials both mobilized action plans to deal with such an event. Fortunately, only a small number of West Nile cases were reported before the end of the summer. However, West Nile Virus outbreaks still remain a threat. A late-summer 2013 report by BCM researchers revealed that the 2012 season saw a palpable rise in West Nile cases.
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