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WEST NILE VIRUS (WNV) FACT SHEET

What is West Nile virus? Most people with West Nile virus disease recover
West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes. It completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for
can cause disease (West Nile infection) in weeks or months.
humans, birds, horses, and some other
mammals. Most cases of West Nile virus in Who is most at risk?
the United States occur June through Anyone who is bitten by an infected mosquito
September. can get the disease. People over the age of 60,
people with certain medical conditions, such as
How is West Nile virus spread? cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease,
West Nile virus is mainly transmitted to and people who have received organ transplants,
people through the bites of infected or those with poor immune systems are more
mosquitoes. Rarely, people can be infected likely to develop a serious illness if infected.
through blood transfusions. Blood banks
screen donors to make sure the blood does What type of health problems are caused
not contain West Nile virus. You can't get by West Nile virus?
infected from casual contact with an infected Some people develop a life-threatening illness
person or animal. that includes inflammation of the spinal cord or
brain. Symptoms of severe illness include high
What are the signs and symptoms of fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor,
West Nile virus? disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions,
Most people infected with West Nile virus muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and
either don't develop signs or symptoms or paralysis. Some effects to the central nervous
have only minor ones, such as fever and mild system might be permanent.
headache, body aches, joint pains, nausea,
and vomiting. Mild signs and symptoms of a About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe
West Nile virus infection generally go away illness affecting the central nervous system die.
on their own. But severe signs and symptoms
— such as a severe headache, fever, The virus can cause severe disease and death in
disorientation or sudden weakness — require horses. Vaccines are available for use in horses,
immediate attention. but not for people.

How long after infection do symptoms How is West Nile virus diagnosed?
appear? Your healthcare provider can order tests to look
Symptoms range from 2 to 14 days after for West Nile virus infection.
exposure, and can be several weeks in people
with weakened immune systems.

Bureau of Epidemiology  801-538-6191  www.health.utah.gov/epi


How is West Nile virus treated? To reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:
No vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity when
West Nile virus infection are available. mosquitoes are most active, such as at
Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used dawn, dusk and early evening.
to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms. • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
In severe cases, patients often need to be when outdoors.
hospitalized to receive supportive treatment. • Apply mosquito repellent containing an
If you think you or a family member might Environmental Protection Agency-
have West Nile virus disease, talk with your registered insect repellent to your skin
healthcare provider. and clothing. Choose the concentration
based on the hours of protection you
How can West Nile virus be prevented? need — the higher the percentage
Your best bet for preventing West Nile virus (concentration) of the active ingredient,
and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to the longer the repellent will work. Follow
avoid exposure to mosquitoes and eliminate the directions on the package, paying
standing water, where mosquitoes breed. special attention to recommendations for
• Unclog roof gutters. use on children.
• Empty unused swimming pools or • Protect infants and small children when
empty standing water on pool covers. they are outdoors.
• Change water in birdbaths and pet
bowls regularly. Where can I get more information?
• Remove old tires or unused containers • Your personal healthcare provider
that might hold water and serve as a • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
breeding place for mosquitoes. • Environmental Protection Agency
• Install or repair screens on windows • National Pesticide Information Center
and doors. • Utah Department of Health
• Clean and stock garden ponds with
mosquito-eating fish or mosquito
dunks.

Rev. 04/2018

Bureau of Epidemiology • 801-538-6191 • www.health.utah.gov/epi