Native News Network Staff in Native Health Discussion »
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN Through September 4, there have been 87 known deaths in the United States in 2012 as the result of the West Nile Virus in the United States.
West Nile Virus Activity as of September 4th
The following important information was posted recently by the Kent County Health Department, based in Grand Rapids:
What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus was first found in the US in 1999 in New York City. Since then, it has spread to most states including Michigan. West Nile virus is spread by the bite of a mosquito that has the virus. Mosquitoes get West Nile virus from biting a bird that has the virus in its blood. After 10 to 14 days, the mosquito can then give the virus to people, birds, or other animals by biting them. West Nile virus is not spread person to person like a cold. But, it has been spread from a pregnant mother to her baby, and through breast milk, blood transfusions and organ transplants.
What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
Most people who get West Nile virus will not have any symptoms - they won't even know they have it. Some people may get sick 3 to 14 days after a bite from a mosquito carrying the virus. A small number of people who get West Nile virus will get a mild illness with fever, head and body aches, and sometimes a skin rash and swollen glands. There are no known long-term effects from a mild illness.
West Nile virus can cause severe illness known as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms include headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, coma, and convulsions. A small number of these illnesses have been deadly. But, people do not often get severe West Nile illness. Less than 1% of the people who get West Nile virus will develop a severe illness.
If you think you or any of your family members have any symptoms of West Nile virus you should talk to your doctor. If you have any symptoms like fever, confusion, muscle weakness and severe headaches, you should see your doctor right away.
Can West Nile virus be treated?There is no treatment that is shown to work for West Nile virus infection. Most people recover on their own. Some people with more severe West Nile illness may need to see a doctor and in some cases may need to stay in the hospital.
Who is at risk for West Nile virus?
All people living in areas where the virus has been active are at risk for West Nile virus. The risk of the more severe form of the disease (West Nile encephalitis) is highest for people 50 years of age and older. But, most people that get West Nile virus have no or mild symptoms.
How can I prevent West Nile virus?
Try to get fewer mosquito bites
When using bug sprays, lotions or gels follow these instructions:
Try to lower the number of mosquito breeding areas around your home:
Editor's Note: The questions and answers in this article were used with permission from Lisa LaPlante, Kent County Health Department in Michigan.
posted September 8, 2012 7:20 am edt