West Nile virus: Preventive tips, common questions

CENTRAL TEXAS - After a 13-year-old boy died in Bastrop County from what his family believes was the West Nile virus, many Central Texans might have some questions and concerns about the virus. Here are some answers to those questions and some tips for avoiding the virus.

Frequently asked questions about the West Nile virus

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding the virus, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

How do you get infected with West Nile virus?

Most become infected when an infected mosquito bites them. Those mosquitoes get infected when they feed on infected birds. In rare cases, the West Nile virus has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants and from mothers to their baby during pregnancy and delivery.

Who is at risk for infection of West Nile virus?

The virus can affect anyone living in an area where mosquitoes have been infected. But people over the age of 60 are at the greatest risk for severe disease if infected.

Is there a vaccine available to prevent West Nile virus?

No.

How soon do people get sick after getting bitten by an infected mosquito?

The incubation period is usually two to six days, but ranges from two to 14 days.

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?

Most people don’t experience symptoms. But about one in five people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Less than 1 percent of those infected develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

What is the treatment for West Nile virus?

There are no medications to treat West Nile virus infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms. In severe cases, those infected need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment.

How to prevent getting the West Nile virus

  • The most effective way to avoid getting the West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites, according to the CDC. Here are some tips from the CDC:
  • When heading outdoors – especially during peak hours from dusk to dawn -- use insect repellents with DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol. Use the repellent according to the product’s description.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitos can bite through thin clothing, so beware.
  • Mosquito proof your home by installing or repairing window and door screens and by using air conditioning.
  • Empty standing water around your home. This includes removing standing water from places such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes and bird baths.
  • Report dead birds to local authorities as they may be a sign that the West Nile virus is circulating between birds and mosquitoes in the area.


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