What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus (WNv) is a disease that is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. The majority of infected individuals have mild or no symptoms. However, the elderly and those with certain chronic medical problems, including problems with their immune systems, can become ill.
Early symptoms of WNv can include fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, confusion, severe headache, sudden sensitivity to light, tremors, numbness, or vision loss. In severe cases, WNv can cause inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis. If individuals believe they are experiencing early symptoms of WNv, they are encouraged to contact their primary health care provider.
Mosquitoes acquire the West Nile virus by feeding on infected birds. You cannot get the disease from person-to-person contact. No specific treatment or vaccination is available for West Nile virus. For severe illness, supportive therapy is provided.
Protect yourself from West Nile virus:
- Wear light coloured clothing and minimize exposed skin if out at dawn and dusk
- Use an insect repellant containing DEET or Icaridin
- Remove any sources of standing water, since mosquitoes lay their eggs there
- If you encounter a dead bird don’t handle it with bare hands