Since West Nile virus first emerged in the United States in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported more than 30,000 cases. infection of birds and is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected bird and subsequently bites a human.
Richard Bradley, M.D., chief of the Division of Emergency and Disaster Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), answers questions about the virus’ current outbreak. Thus far in 2012, the CDC has reported more than 1,000 cases of West Nile virus, and Texas health officials have declared a public health emergency.
Q: How do I know if I have the West Nile virus?
A: Most people who become infected with West Nile virus don’t have major symptoms, and may only have a temporary fever. About one person out of every 150 who are infected develop a severe disease called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis. This is an inflammation of the brain or the covering of the brain. These symptoms include headache, high fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, muscle weakness, convulsions and coma. The symptoms may last several weeks and nerve damage may be permanent.
Q: Who is at the greatest risk for getting West Nile virus?
A: Everyone can be at risk, but the greatest risk is in those who are over age 50, and particularly in those who have received a solid organ transplant, such as a kidney, lung or heart transplant.
Q: How is West Nile treated?
A: West Nile is a virus – there is no treatment. Doctors can treat the symptoms, but West Nile can’t be cured. So, the most important thing is to prevent infection.
How can I prevent West Nile virus?
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