As of August 12, there are 36 human cases of WNV reported in California. Last year, there were 280 reported human infections of WNV and nine WNV related deaths in Orange County. The disease is recurring every year during the summer months and into the fall, according to county health officials.
Q: What is West Nile virus and who is at risk for infection?
A: West Nile virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, most cases of human infection occur in the elderly and in those with impaired immune systems.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: The vast majority of WNV infections (~80%) are asymptomatic. Most symptomatic patients will have fever, sometimes accompanied by other nonspecific signs such as headache, nausea, vomiting or rash. Less than 1% of infected individuals will develop a neurologic disease, such as meningitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or acute flaccid paralysis.
Q: What is the treatment?
A: No vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile virus infection are available. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms, however. In severe cases, particularly those with neurologic involvement, patients often need to be hospitalized.
Q: How can families protect themselves from this virus?
- Eliminate standing water on your property, which can serve as a breeding area for mosquitoes.
- Install door and window screens, to prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.
- When possible, avoid being outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- When outdoors, if possible, wear long pants and long sleeves and use an insect repellent during the summer and fall. Look for repellents containing DEET, picardin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, which often provide longer-lasting protection.
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