Know the Risks and Prevent West Nile Virus Infection

Just the name West Nile Virus makes this infection sound horrific, but there are steps you can take to prevent the disease.

a mosquito is sucking blood from a human's body

Now if you think you are safe just because you are not in the West Nile region of Egypt then think again. This mosquito-borne disease is more widespread than you may realize.

Keep in mind that not everyone bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease will show symptoms. Unfortunately, not everyone will be lucky enough. In some cases, it can lead to a horrific and life-threatening brain inflammation infection that needs to be treated immediately.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there are approximately 2,500 hospitalized due to viral encephalitis caused by the virus and kill more than 100 people throughout the U.S. each year.

The virus was first identified back in 1937 in Uganda, Africa. It is part of the encephalitis range of viruses, and there is currently no real vaccination available for it. However, a recent study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center revealed that they have discovered a human antibody which could prevent and inhibit the pathogenic virus. But further studies need to be done before the antibody treatment (called WNV-86) can be applied to humans.

Ultimately the best course of action is to reduce the chances of being bitten by a mosquito in the first place.

The Symptoms of West Nile Virus

The majority of human cases are asymptomatic. The individuals that visit their doctors show flu-like symptoms that are relatively mild. They may suffer from just a headache, a fever, and their body may ache. So, it’s very easy for people to believe they just have the flu.

However, in some cases, the infection can become more severe putting the life of the patient in danger. These individuals experience symptoms including:

  • Severe fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Weakness throughout the body
  • Meningitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Even slipping into a coma


In general each year 1 out of every 140-320 infections will lead to serious symptoms, which is a significant number.

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It is believed that the strength of the individual’s immune system will have an impact on how the infection develops. That is why potential death rates linked to the virus are higher in those over 70 years of age.

How to Reduce Your Risks of Serious Infection

To reduce the risk of severe infection from the West Nile Virus, the key is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Even though not every mosquito carries the virus, it is not worth taking that risk.

If you live in a part of the country where mosquitoes are a problem, then getting help to eradicate them from around your home would be helpful. This is something that should be done by a professional pest control expert as the source has to be found so the correct actions can be applied.


Cases of West Nile Virus have been discovered in every area of the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii.

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So, to get to the heart of the problem, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of mosquito bites. These steps include various things in and around your home:

  • Unclog gutters of leaves and debris.
  • Get rid of any standing water to prevents mosquitoes from breeding.
  • Install screens on windows and doors to keep them from getting in.
  • Avoid doing too many outdoor activities at dusk or dawn as that tends to be when mosquitoes are most active.
  • If you are going outside wear long pants and sleeves if possible to give them less skin to latch onto.
  • Use quality repellent, and don’t go for cheap products.
  • Apply some repellent to the bare skin, so you are no longer an attractive meal for mosquitoes.
  • If you have a weakened immune system, boosting it will help reduce your chances of succumbing to infection.

mosquito in the blood icon

Preventative Measures Against West Nile Virus

Ultimately, West Nile Virus is something that we all need to be aware of. The chances of developing a deadly disease may be slim, but there’s no 0% risk.

And while there are things you can do to prevent a mosquito bite, it will be impossible to be perfect all of the time. It’s easy to make a mistake and slip up, but if you do start to feel ill and are uncertain then get medical attention immediately.

The West Nile Virus is dangerous, but we can do things to reduce our risks. Look at applying a number of the points mentioned above to lower your chances, and do not be afraid to get professional advice if required.***

Last update November 27, 2018

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