West Nile virus

West Nile virus

West Nile Virus is in many parts of the country now. Although your chances of getting it are slim, it can be nasty, and even deadly, so precautions are in order. It is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites and is far more prevalent this year than last, especially in the western US.

If you get infected, here are the possible outcomes:

No symptoms (most likely), West Nile fever (WNF in about 20% of people) or severe West Nile disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis (less than 1% of those who get infected). If you develop a high fever with severe headache, consult your health care provider.

WNF is characterized by symptoms such as fever, body aches, headache and sometimes swollen lymph glands and rash.  Occasionally, an infected person may develop more severe disease such as “West Nile encephalitis,” “West Nile meningitis” or “West Nile meningoencephalitis.” Encephalitis refers to an inflammation of the brain, meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord, and meningoencephalitis refers to inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it.

Map of US West Nile infection in humans

Prevention info from the CDC
Wear long sleeved shirts and pants, spray DEET on your clothes.

Insect repellent clothes
The Buzz Off line of clothes from Ex Officio has insect repellent imbedded in it.

BUZZ OFFâ„¢ garments repel Mosquitoes, Ticks, Ants, Flies, Chiggers, and Midges or no-see-ums. This repellent effect has been proven through extensive testing and research. The EPA requires extensive effectiveness data to prove the product’s ability to repel these insects. Many species and varieties of ticks, mosquitoes, flies, etc., have been tested.

CDC expert on West Nile virus ignores own advice about mosquito repellent, gets virus.

Even the mild form, West Nile fever, is no joke, Petersen says. “I was in bed for about five days, just feeling horrible, and I didn’t get back to normal for about three more weeks” because of lingering tiredness. “It’s not a pleasant thing,” he says. “Your body aches all over, you have headaches, eye pain, rash and fatigue.”

I grew up in New England where mosquitos are omnipresent in the summer, and I only used repellent when they were especially bad. Now, living in LA and hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains where signs are posted about West Nile, DEET spray now appears essential. 

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