West Nile Virus

General or Other | Neurology | West Nile Virus (Disease)


The West Nile virus (WNV) is a virus that can infect humans, birds, horses and mosquitoes. Infection with this virus is most commonly found in Africa, West Asia and Middle East. The virus is reported in 48 states.

The WNV is one of the viruses spread by mosquitoes and can occasionally cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

A person may not have symptoms or may have a headache, brain inflammation and other features similar to many other causes of encephalitis.

Causes and Risk factors

The West Nile virus is most often spread by mosquitoes. People can get the West Nile virus when an infected mosquito bites. This happens most frequently in the warmer months of spring, summer and early fall. A person cannot get the West Nile virus from another person or a pet.

However, risk taking in these ways the virus is very low. Several cases of West Nile virus were also reported, when a pregnant or nursing mother has passed it to her baby. These cases are extremely rare. Most WNV cases are not serious, and even if a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, he/she may not have any symptoms.

Occasionally, however, a bite from an infected mosquito can cause brain inflammation (encephalitis), spinal cord (myelitis) or tissues around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). The WNV becomes a serious condition in less than 1% of people who are infected.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Because this illness is not caused by bacteria, antibiotics do not help treat the West Nile virus infection. Standard hospital care may help decrease the risk of complications in severe illness. ...

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