West Nile Virus
- What is West Nile virus?
- How is West Nile virus Spread?
- What are my chances of getting West Nile virus?
- What are the symptoms?
- What do I do if I think I have West Nile virus?
- Where should I report a dead bird?
- How can I help prevent West Nile virus?
- Where can I get more information?
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals. The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in 1937. The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people. The first human case of the virus in Virginia appeared in 2002.
West Nile virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus. West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, but a small number of cases were a result of blood transfusions or organ transplants from infected people. There may also be a risk of infected mothers transmitting the virus to their unborn or nursing children. (See large view of cycle above.)
In areas where West Nile virus has been detected, only a small proportion of mosquitoes are likely to be infected. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.
|Less than 1% of people who are infected will become seriously ill.|
|10-15 percent of those seriously ill die.|
The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 14 days after exposure. People over age 50 are at greater risk of severe illness.
Milder symptoms include:
- slight fever
- body aches
- swollen glands
- sometimes a skin rash
Severe symptoms include:
- high fever
- intense headache
- stiff neck
If you are bitten by a mosquito, you don’t need to see a doctor. Most people who suffer a mild illness due to West Nile virus recover, and no treatment is necessary. Only supportive treatment is available for more serious cases. Testing for West Nile virus in people involves a blood or spinal fluid test that can take several weeks to confirm. No vaccine exists at this time for West Nile virus infection in humans.
The Virginia Department of Health, along with multiple other agencies, is monitoring for mosquito-borne viruses in birds, mosquitoes, horses and humans. The information collected is used to advise local authorities and the public about the potential threat of West Nile virus in Virginia.
The public can help state officials monitor for the virus by reporting dead crows, bluejays and birds of prey. In Henrico call 226-NILE. The state lab will no longer test dead wild birds for WNV. Testing dead birds is not considered a useful or economic WNV surveillance indicator as there is little evidence of a correlation between reported dead bird data and WNV infection rates in mosquitoes. Despite not testing dead birds, the Henrico Standing Water Initiative encourages the public to call 226-NILE for dead bird concerns. Staff will provide information about sound mosquito control practices.
Eliminate mosquito breeding areas around the home. Several of the species of mosquitoes most likely to carry West Nile virus can breed in containers in your own backyard.
Control Mosquitoes from Breeding
- Turn over or remove containers in your yard where rainwater collects, such as potted plant trays, buckets or toys.
- Empty birdbaths once a week.
- Remove old tires from your yard.
- Drain wading pools often.
- Clean roof gutters and downspout screens.
- Eliminate standing water on flat roofs.
- Do not allow water to collect in garbage cans.
Protect Yourself and Your Family
- Wear long, loose and light-colored clothing.
- If possible, stay indoors when mosquitoes are biting.
- Use insect repellent with the smallest percentage of DEET that protects for the length of time you are exposed to mosquitoes, but no more than 50% for adults and 10% for children under 12.
- Only adults should apply repellent on children.
- Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face.
- Only apply repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Do not use repellent under clothing.
- Do not apply repellent over cuts, wounds, sunburn, or irritated skin.
- Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.
You can find more information at these websites:
Virginia Department of Health
Virginia Mosquito Control Association
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
EPA Pesticides & Mosquito Control
You can also contact Henrico County about a particular question at these phone numbers.
|Public Health Questions||Michael Campbell||Health||501-4529
|Media Inquiries||Jennifer Kraegel||Public Relations & Media Services||501-4257
|Tamra McKinney||Public Relations & Media Services||501-4257
|Report dead birds or horses||West Nile Virus Hotline||Public Works||226-6453
|Request a speaker or West Nile video||Pam Orlandi||Public Works||226-NILE (6453)
|Field Staff Training||Bill Jeter||General Services||501-5667
|Schools Public Information||Janet Binns||Schools||652-3724
|Mosquito Control Advice||West Nile Virus Hotline||Public Works||226-6453
|Standing Water Complaints||Pam Orlandi||Public Works/