What do I need to know about West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is a seasonal illness that happens in the summer to fall, just like influenza is a seasonal illness that happens in the winter to spring. So the good news is, you don’t have to worry about this virus all year long! The bad news is, this condition does occur locally, so it’s a good idea to know how to prevent it and how to recognize the signs.

The virus is most often spread by infected mosquitoes. You can still run and bike outdoors, but take the following steps to minimize your chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito:

  • Use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient.
  • Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so be sure to wear long sleeves and pants if you are outdoors during these times.
  • Drain standing water, which will reduce the number of places mosquitoes can breed. Large areas of water like the Reedy River, which runs along the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, are not concerning.

These are all good things to know, but how would you know if you got bitten by an infected mosquito? People typically develop symptoms between three and 14 days after they have been bitten by an infected mosquito. And if you notice symptoms, don’t panic—it’s not a death sentence. Milder forms of the virus do exist and can improve on their own. However, if your symptoms are severe, seek medical attention immediately. Severe symptoms include headache, fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Most people (4 out of 5) who are infected with the virus will not develop any type of illness. Great news, but remember—prevention is key to reducing your risk!

Matthew Player is an infection preventionist at Greenville Health System.

Last Reviewed 12/2017
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