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West Nile Virus: Should You Be Concerned?


Do you come from a land of mosquitoes like I do? I've got to tell you - one of the benefits of moving from Minnesota to California is the lack of mosquitoes in the Golden State. Obviously no one likes to be bitten by a mosquito, but their bites can do much more than leave you with an itchy bump. Mosquitoes bring along with them the threat of West Nile Virus (WNV). Keep reading for more information on this potentially dangerous infection.

Do you come from a land of mosquitoes like I do? I've got to tell you - one of the benefits of moving from Minnesota to California is the lack of mosquitoes in the Golden State.

After living in a place where the mosquito should be the official state bird, it’s nice to have a little break from that annoying little insect. It was never a second thought to pack the mosquito repellant whenever going to a summertime event held outside in the evening hours. Did you know they even do massive sprays for mosquitoes using planes in MN? I’m not even kidding – those nasty little buggers are a real problem where I grew up!

Obviously no one likes to be bitten by a mosquito, but their bites can do much more than leave you with an itchy bump. Mosquitoes bring along with them the threat of West Nile Virus (WNV).

What exactly is West Nile Virus? Is it deadly? And how can you protect yourself? Keep reading for the answers to all of those questions and more.

WNV Overview
Mosquitoes become carriers of the virus when they bite infected birds, and people can get the virus when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. There are no known cases of a human getting WNV from an infected bird, only from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms or have only a mild illness. Less than 1 in 100 people who are infected with the virus develop serious illness. Serious forms of illness caused by WNV include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord).

Who is at risk?
The risk of West Nile Virus is seasonal in the northern states of the United States and begins in the spring. The peak time for infection is mid to late August. In milder southern climates, the infection may occur year-round. The risk of severe infection is greatest for people who are over 70 years old or who have a weakened immune system.

How is the virus spread?
West Nile virus may be spread from person to person through blood transfusions and organ transplants. The virus might also be transmitted through breast milk. However, the risk of transmission of the virus to the baby is believed to be very low. If you are breast-feeding and you have a WNV infection, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that you continue breast-feeding. The infection is not spread by normal person-to-person contact like touching, kissing, or caring for someone who is infected.

Symptoms
Symptoms, which usually appear two to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, generally include fever, headaches, muscle aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. About four out of five infected people have no symptoms. Children are more likely to have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and last a few days.

Treatment Options
There is no specific medicine to treat West Nile Virus. If you have a serious infection, you may need to stay at the hospital. You may be given intravenous (IV) fluids and pain relievers. For severe or life-threatening infection, you may need treatment in an intensive care unit.

If you get West Nile Virus, you will probably be immune to future infection by the virus, but your immunity might decrease over time. Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest and taking an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen or an herbal anti-inflammatory such as boswellia, turmeric or ginger.

Prevention
To avoid contracting WNV, try to stay out of wet, marshy areas where mosquitoes tend to congregate. You can also protect yourself by applying a mosquito repellant (often found in spray or cream form) or by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants and closed-toed shoes when in situations favorable to mosquito exposure (aka: any evening event held in central Minnesota between the months of early May and late September).

Don’t let WNV get you down! With the above information you can better avoid the threat of West Nile Virus – not only for yourself, but your friends and family as well.



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