West Nile Virus
DefinitionWest Nile virus (WNV) is an infection that is most commonly spread by a mosquito bite. In rare cases, WNV can lead to serious complications, or death.This infection is found worldwide. In the United States, it tends to occur during late summer and early fall.
CausesWest Nile is caused by a virus. The virus is passed through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can also be passed through a blood transfusion with infected blood, but this is rare.
Risk FactorsThe greatest risk factors for WNV are spending time in areas where mosquitoes are present and not using insect repellent. The risk of complications with WNV is highest in people:
- Over 50 years old
- With a weakened immune system
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SymptomsMost people with WNV have no symptoms. About 20% of the people who become infected with WNV develop flu-like symptoms such as:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Eye inflammation— conjunctivitis
- High fever
- Stiff neck
- Vision loss
- Severe muscle weakness
DiagnosisIn addition to taking your medical history and doing a physical exam, your doctor will ask you:
- What kind of symptoms you are experiencing
- Where you have been living or traveling to
- Whether you have been exposed to mosquitoes
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