What you need to know about West Nile Virus



Symptoms, treatment and important facts about the mosquito-borne illness

A warm start to the fall season means continued hot temperatures and high levels of humidity, keeping pesky mosquitoes buzzing around and carrying potential risk of West Nile Virus.

Recently. a mosquito sampling in the Cedar Park area tested positive for West Nile.

Sarmistha Hauger, MD, is the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Hauger said West Nile is prevalent in late summer and early fall, but can still be around whenever mosquitoes are present.

“The chance for exposure to this virus is early in the morning and at dusk because that is when mosquitoes feed,” Hauger said. “Humans are accidental tourists when it comes to West Nile because it is typically contracted from insects to birds. Humans don’t spread the virus unless they donate blood or an organ, so humans contract it accidentally.”

Seton is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

What are the symptoms of West Nile?

About a quarter of people who are bitten become infected with West Nile.

Most people don’t have symptoms and when they do, flu-like symptoms appear, like low-grade fever and headaches.

Less than one percent of infected people can have more serious symptoms, mostly related to the nervous system, says Hauger. This can cause inflammation in any area of the body, but it becomes worrisome when there’s inflammation in the brain and spine.

Worst-case symptoms include seizures or weakness of muscles in arms and legs and lack of consciousness and coma, which are extremely rare.

“It is important to know that those worst-case-scenario symptoms occur in very few people who are usually already at high-risk,” Hauger said.

How do you treat West Nile?

There is no anti-viral medicine treatment for West Nile Virus. However, doctors can treat symptoms to help the problem. For example, treat dehydration and weakness with fluids.

The majority of people with symptoms do get better, Hauger said.

What do I need to know?

  • West Nile is not new to our community
  • Most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will not get a serious illness
  • You can prevent getting sick by using insect repellant and clean up yards of standing water
  • Some populations are more at risk, such as older people or those with health problems
  • If you have symptoms of severe headache, weakness, high fever or rash, seek medical care
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information