West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe the virus is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.

What are the symptoms?

Serious symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

Milder symptoms in can include fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have been sick for several weeks.

Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms at all.

How does it spread?

Most often, West Nile is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes are virus carriers that become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread West Nile to humans and other animals when they bite. Not through touching. It is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.

What can I do to prevent West Nile Virus?

The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile is to prevent mosquito bites.

When you are outdoors, use insect repellents containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Follow the directions on the package.

Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours. Light-colored clothing can help you see mosquitoes that land on you.

Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

For more information call MCDPH (602) 747-7500 or the CDC public response hotline at (888) 246-2675 (English), (888) 246-2857 (Espaol), or (866) 874-2646 (TTY)

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