West Nile Virus (cont.)
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What Causes West Nile Virus and West Nile Encephalitis?
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by biting birds (or other animals like horses or dogs) that harbor the virus; thus, mosquitoes are the vectors of West Nile encephalitis (WNE). The virus is not spread from person to person nor is it spread from infected birds to humans without a mosquito bite. The virus has now been found in 111 bird species and about a dozen mammals.
What Are the Risk Factors for West Nile Virus and West Nile Encephalitis?
The major risk factor for West Nile virus and West Nile encephalitis is being exposed to mosquitoes that may be carrying the virus. Such individuals are those who spend time outdoors and have skin exposed for mosquitoes to bite (for example, campers, hikers, those engaged in outdoor working conditions). Individuals who are is 50 years of age or older and individuals who have a weakened immune systems (cancer patients, diabetics, for example) are at higher risk for both infection and encephalitis.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs West Nile Virus and West Nile Encephalitis?
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Signs and symptoms of the West Nile virus infection range from no symptoms at all to a rapidly fatal brain infection. The incubation period ranges from two to 14 days although two to six days is the most common range. In areas where the virus is common, people are more likely to show no symptoms of the infection or have only a mild, flu-like illness rather than a severe brain infection. The following describes symptoms and their frequency of occurrence:
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017
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West Nile encephalitis (WNE) is distinguished from other arthropod-borne causes of viral encephalitis (eg, western equine encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis [EEE], Japanese encephalitis, Venezuelan encephalitis) based on its geographic distribution, clinical features, and laboratory findings.