The CDC has declared that the US is experiencing the largest outbreak of West Nile Virus yet (it’s only been in the country since 1999). Scientists predicted the mosquito (and tick) boom earlier this year after the mild winter lead to a population boom for the insects.
Which areas have West Nile Virus? Pretty much everywhere but the Southwest. The virus mostly infects birds, and is then transmitted between birds and humans by mosquitoes that bite both birds and humans.
Over a thousand people have reported West Nile Virus symptoms (keep in mind that most people who get infected don’t show any symptoms, so the number of people actually infected is quite higher—easily more than double), and a few dozen have died.
When West Nile Virus symptoms do appear, it can be weeks after the initial bite (though some can experience headache and fever right away). As August comes to an end, there are likely many people who do not yet know they’ve been infected.
Development of West Nile Virus symptoms is strongly tied to a weakened immune system—which is why the elderly population is most affected. Most people who develop West Nile Virus symptoms recover as their immune system is able—but a small few will develop brain inflammation which can lead to death. If you have high fever, severe headaches, or neurological impairment (confusion) see a doctor immediately.
West Nile Virus does not generally spread from mammals, so you don’t have to worry about outdoor dogs and cats bringing it into your home, but it’s still good to help keep them safe. Make sure any water bowls have fresh water at least daily so that they don’t breed mosquitoes, and get rid of any other still water around your home like ponds or fountains that aren’t running.
Has your community been affected by West Nile? Share below!