Everything you ever wanted to know about West Nile
Every year, as summer stretches into fall and the mosquitoes really swarm, West Nile Virus starts to pop up on news orgs nationwide despite the fact that the illness is not usually that big of a deal. So why does this mediocre virus get so much airplay in the media? Well for starters, West Nile really tends to flare up in early fall and we all know August is (barring any major political catastrophes or natural disasters) usually a pretty slow news month. While West Nile may get a little more attention than it warrants, there are still a few things about this bug to be aware of (like the fact that Dallas is at the epicenter of this year’s epidemic).
West Nile is a virus that is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. Most people that acquire West Nile don’t even know they have it, or they may develop flu-like symptoms for a week or less, get better and not think twice about it. For the very young, the very old and for those with weakened immune systems, however, West Nile can become serious or even fatal. The total number of deaths for Dallas County has already reached 5, a record.
A mild case of West Nile is either asymptomatic or presents flu-like symptoms. More severe cases can cause confusion, inability to think clearly, a stiff neck, muscle weakness or the weakness of one arm or leg. This is when you go to the doctor.
While there currently isn’t a pill that kills the virus (antibiotics don’t work on viruses, remember), hospitalization in severe cases will decrease the risk of any complications.
Now that you know if you have it, how do you keep yourself from getting it? For starters, Dallas and the surrounding cities are spraying like mad to kill mosquitoes. Aside from that, it’s just a matter of protecting yourself from mosquito bites in all the general ways: insect repellent, yard foggers and sprays, and steering clear of standing water. For more information, keep tabs on your favorite local news station and the CDC.