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All you need to know about West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is carried by infected Culex mosquitoes. ©Shutterstock

A 7-year-old boy from Kerala, who has tested positive for West Nile Virus, is admitted to the ICU. Borne by mosquitoes, this rare virus hardly gives you any symptom except for cough and cold. Read on to know more.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : March 15, 2019 9:23 PM IST

Mosquito-borne diseases can pose potential health hazards and become fatal too in some cases. Recently, a 7-year-old boy from Kerala has been diagnosed with a rare mosquito-borne virus named West Nile Virus (WNV). He is currently admitted to the intensive care unit of Government Medical College & Hospital (GMCH), Kozhikode. The boy developed symptoms of cold and fever around two months back before he was admitted into the hospital for further examination and treatment. A multi-disciplinary team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been sent to review his on Thursday.

Way back in 2002, four organ transplant patients were detected with this virus, mentions the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, one out of these four patients died.

WHAT IS WNV?

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West Nile Virus is carried by infected Culex mosquitoes. They pick up this virus from infected birds and transfer it to humans and other animals while biting. There are various instances of the presence of this virus in horses, squirrels and cats. This disease may only lead to a mild fever or cold. However, in rare cases, the it can travel through your bloodstream and cause encephalitis or meningitis which could be fatal. In case of encephalitis, which is also known as inflammation of the brain, you may experience frequent seizures and confused thinking. In case of meningitis, that leads to inflammation of your brain s outer membrane, the symptoms include stiff neck, headache and fever.

SYMPTOMS OF WNV

The journal Annals of Internal Medicine states that one out of five people infected with the West Nile Virus develop mild fever. However, in majority of the cases, you may not even experience a symptom. But in rare instances, (1 out of 150) people infected with this virus develop serious symptoms that can affect your central nervous system.

HOW TO DIAGNOSE WNV?

A blood test is required for the diagnosis of this virus. If your signs are severe, then your doctor may ask you to undergo a spinal tap, a test where fluid around your spinal cord is taken out to examine for further action plan. It is the most commonly used test to diagnose meningitis and encephalitis.

KEEPING WNV AT BAY

Since there is no vaccine available to tackle West Nile virus, the best preventive measure you can opt for is to guard yourself against mosquitoes, especially during the rainy season when the mosquitoes are most active. However, various studies suggest that the mosquito which carries this virus can also survive during cold weather.

Use repellents: Whenever you go outdoors, ensure that you apply an insect repellent on the exposed skin. Doctors recommend that repellents which contain DEET, a common ingredient in insect repellent can provide long-term protection against mosquitoes. However, avoid applying them on infants younger than 2 months.

Cover yourself up: When you go outdoors during the rainy season, wear long sleeves and shoes instead of slippers. In case you require extra protection, you can spray Permethrin, a repellent that is used on clothes, shoes, etc.

Clean up your surroundings: Tyres, trash cans and other things that can accumulate water are the favourite breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Don't let water accumulate inside or close to your home.

Know when mosquitoes are most active: Usually, most mosquitoes are likely to bite during early morning and in the evening. However, there are some species of mosquitoes which are active during the day as well.

Electrify mosquitoes: Buy buzzing-rackets which can electrify the mosquitoes that have sneaked into your house. It is an effective solution for sure.

Use mosquito nets: The traditionally used technique to keep mosquitoes at bay is a mosquito net. It is one of the effective ways to protect yourself from them. You can also cover your windows with nets.

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