West Nile Virus


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West Nile Virus (WNV) – What you need to know!

The following information is provided by the CDC:


What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious viral illness that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. In a small number of cases, WNV has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, and from mother to baby during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of WNV?
Most people who are infected with WNV will not show any signs of illness. Some people (up to 20%) who are infected will have mild symptoms such as fever, head and body aches, nausea, rash, and swollen glands. A small percentage of people infected with WNV will develop serious illness with symptoms that can include high fever, altered mental status, neck stiffness, convulsions, coma, and sometimes death.

How soon do people infected with WNV get sick?
People usually begin to show signs of illness 3 to 15 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.

How is WNV diagnosed?
WNV can only be diagnosed by a health-care provider. If you think you have signs of illness compatible with WNV you should speak with your provider as soon as possible. If your provider thinks you have WNV, he or she will take samples of blood and cerebral spinal fluid to be tested for WNV.

What is the treatment for WNV?
There is no specific treatment for WNV. Most people who are infected recover without treatment. Severe WNV illness usually requires supportive treatment in the hospital. This treatment can include intravenous fluids, help with breathing, and nursing care.

Is there a vaccine to prevent WNV?
No, currently there is no vaccine available to prevent WNV.

What can I do to protect myself from WNV infection?
The best way to avoid WNV is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

  • Use an EPA approved repellent when outdoors. Always follow the instructions on the label
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks when outdoors
  • Use screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your house
  • Avoid being outdoors at dawn or dusk when many mosquitoes are most active
  • Get rid of places where mosquitoes can lay their eggs by draining standing water around your house

Why do people talk about dead birds and WNV?
Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on infected birds. Some birds become very sick and die in large numbers from the WNV infection.

What should I do if I find group of 3 or more dead birds?
Do not touch the birds with your bare hands. Contact Maine CDC for instructions on how to report and safely dispose of the birds.

Where can I get more information?
For more information contact your healthcare provider or local health center. You can also contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention by calling 1-800-821-5821 or visiting the website http://www.mainepublichealth.gov. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website – http://www.cdc.gov– is another excellent source of health information.

What are arboviruses?
Arboviruses (Arthropod-borne viruses) are viruses that are primarily spread by blood-feeding arthropods like mosquitoes and ticks. These viruses cause diseases in humans such as West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis and Powassan encephalitis.

How do people get these diseases?
Arboviruses are spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitoes and ticks. In a small number of cases, arboviruses have been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breast milk, and during pregnancy from mother to baby. These infections are not spread through casual contact such as kissing or drinking from an infected person’s glass.

What are the symptoms of an arboviral infection?
The symptoms of arboviral infections can range from very mild to very severe. The majority of people infected by these viruses either do not show any symptoms or experience mild fever, head and body aches, and a lack of energy. More severe symptoms can include high fever, stiff neck, tremors, altered mental status, inflammation of the brain, respiratory distress, paralysis, coma and death.

How soon do symptoms of arboviral infections occur?
Depending on the disease, symptoms usually occur between 3 to 18 days after infection.

When do most arboviral infections occur?
Most arboviral infections occur during the late spring through early fall when mosquitoes and ticks are most active. In the warmer parts of the United States arboviral infections can occur year-round.

Who is at risk for arboviral infections?
Anyone can be infected with an arbovirus. The risk is highest for people who spend a lot of time outdoors where they can be bitten by mosquitoes and ticks. Severe symptoms are more likely to occur in children or the elderly.

How are arboviral infections diagnosed?
Arboviral infections can only be diagnosed by a healthcare provider. If arboviral infection is suspected, samples of blood and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) will be collected and sent to a laboratory for diagnosis.

What is the treatment for arboviral infection?
There is no specific treatment for arboviral infections. People with mild infections usually recover on their own. Healthcare providers can provide supportive therapy to patients with severe infections.

Are there vaccines to prevent arboviral infections in the United States?
Currently there are no human vaccines available to prevent the arboviral infections found in the United States.

How can I protect myself from arboviral infection?
The best way to prevent arboviral infection is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes and ticks that spread these diseases.

  • Use an EPA registered repellent
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors
  • Check for ticks on your body after being outdoors
  • Empty or drain water-holding containers around your house
  • Reduce the number of items that could hold water from your yard
  • Keep vegetation around your house from becoming overgrown