Dangers and Symptoms of West Nile Virus

Prevent West Nile Virus Mosquitos are more than pesky, itchy, bloodsucking creatures. They carry pathogens that can make you gravely ill.

On Wednesday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declared his city is facing a West Nile Virus emergency. According to the CDC, at least 14 people in Texas and 26 nationwide have died as a result of the virus.

“The United States is experiencing its biggest spike in West Nile virus since 2004, with 241 cases of the disease reported nationwide this year so far, including four deaths, health officials said last weekend, before the latest totals.

“Of the 42 states that have reported infections in people, birds or mosquitoes, 80% of them have been in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. The CDC listed a breakdown of infections by state,” CNN reported.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus, according to the CDC:

It is estimated that about 20% of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash (on the trunk of the body) and swollen lymph glands. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported being sick for several weeks.

The symptoms of severe disease (also called neuroinvasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease. Serious illness can occur in people of any age, however people over age 50 and some immunocompromised persons (for example, transplant patients) are at the highest risk for getting severely ill when infected with WNV.

Most people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile virus will not develop any type of illness (an asymptomatic infection), however you cannot know ahead of time if you’ll get sick or not when infected.

Incubation: 

15 days.

Prevention: 

  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Generally, the the more active ingredient a repellent contains the longer it can protect you from mosquito bites. A higher percentage of active ingredient in a repellent does not mean that your protection is better—just that it will last longer. Click here for more on insect repellent active ingredients. Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors.
    • Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellent to the hands of children.
    • Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s DIRECTIONS FOR USE, as printed on the product.
    • For detailed information about using repellents, see the Insect Repellent Use and Safety questions.
  • Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Do not apply repellents containing permethrin directly to exposed skin. Do not apply repellent to skin under your clothing.
  • When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
  • Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when you are outdoors with infants.
  • Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening, which are peak mosquito biting times.
  • Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.