Lately there has been a lot of coverage about West Nile virus in the news. In fact, for a variety of different factors this is shaping up to potentially be the worst outbreak since the disease peaked in the US in 2003.
Right now in early September we are in the mid-season of West Nile activity and new cases will continue to be reported in the coming weeks. While this is an important disease to be aware of there are some very basic steps that can be taken to protect you from infection. Widespread panic is completely unnecessary as preventative measures are effective despite the lack of approved treatments for this disease.
Keep reading for an overview of the diseases caused by West Nile virus, where it is, and how to disrupt transmission of the virus to prevent infection.
Where is West Nile?
In 1999 there was an unexplained outbreak of disease among birds in city zoos which were later linked to fever cases throughout parts of the city. It was discovered that these were linked by the West Nile virus, a member of the flavivirus family related to Japanese encephalitis virus. Since its introduction in 1999 West Nile virus has spread to all of the lower 48 states. Shown above is the West Nile activity in 2003, current peak year for human West Nile infections.
How do I get West Nile?
This virus is transmitted by the bite of the Culex and Aedes mosquitoes. It cannot be transmitted person-to-person so being near ill-persons is not dangerous as long as no mosquito vectors are present.
What are the symptoms?