The West Nile virus can be lethal. Most people who are infected will show mild to no symptoms, but a small percentage of people die with extreme symptoms. In 2015, 2,060 cases of West Nile were reported in the United States, and of those cases, 84 people died.
According to the CDC, or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, As of January 12, 2016, a total of 48 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. Despite the exotic sounding name, West Nile is a virus that has been found in almost every U.S. state (excluding Hawaii and Alaska), which means that the risk of coming down with this infection is higher than you might think. It is beneficial to educate yourself on the symptoms of what can be a life threatening infection, where it came from, and how to prevent it.
The first case of West Nile was originally reported in Uganda in 1937. Since then, it has spread and been found in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, and the United States. The first reported case in the U.S. was during the summer of 1999 in New York. Over the next fifteen years, West Nile has been recorded in all adjacent 48 states, however, some Mid-Western and Southern states have experienced spikes of reported cases in recent years.
West Nile is spread through mosquito bites, usually during mosquito seasons. Mosquito seasons vary depending on the area, but are most commonly between the months of April and October. Mosquitoes are infected with West Nile when they bite infected birds, and then spread the infection to people. You can not get West Nile through touching or kissing someone who is infected, and are most likely to get it from mosquito bite. Being anywhere that mosquitoes are known to live and breed runs the risk of coming down with the infection.
Most people who are infected with West Nile will not show symptoms at all, and if they do, they will probably be very mild. The majority of people who do show symptoms may profess the following:
More severe cases of West Nile may have all of the above symptoms, as well as more serious body aches, disorientation, major headaches and body rashes.
In a very small percentage of people, West Nile can cause an infection of the brain called encephalitis. This causes swelling of the brain, and can be life-threatening. Most people that die of West Nile had encephalitis caused by the infection, and those who recover from West Nile and also had encephalitis may have brain damage.
West Nile can be found in almost any climate, but particularly in hot and humid regions. As said before, the Mid-Western and Southern states have experienced a spike in cases in recent years, mostly because of their hot and humid rainy seasons. Anywhere with lakes, ponds, or even puddles is prime mosquito breeding ground, which means West Nile can be found.
When going outside to an environment that you know could harbor mosquitoes, take precautionary measures. If possible, wear long sleeves and long pants that can inhibit a mosquito from biting you. Wear insect repellent, and be generous in applying it when going to the mountains or camping. Be educated on the symptoms of West Nile, and if you start showing signs, seek medical attention.
Since mosquitoes breed in almost any environment with standing water, you can help your own neighborhood prevent West Nile by eliminating possible breeding grounds. Empty any standing water in containers inside and outside houses and community locations. This includes vases of plants, plastic pools, wheelbarrows, discarded tires, bird baths and gutters. Check parks, clubhouses, parks, etc. in your neighborhood or HOA. Be sure that windows have screens on them, and that there are no holes big enough for a mosquito to get in. Keep your in-ground community pool clean, and cover it when it is not being used. It is important to try and prevent this virus, like any other illness, from entering your life, by taking precautionary measures and seeking medical attention if you begin to show symptoms.