Contributors: Aisha Powell and Dr. Emran from Simple Health Radio
Today on Simple Health Radio, Dr. Emran speaks about the increase of mosquitoes across the US leading to infections including the West Nile virus.
The West Nile virus is an infection that is commonly spread by mosquitoes to humans. The mosquito works as a vector or middleman transmitting the virus from human to human.
The virus is not always harmful since many symptoms are similar to the flu. About 20% of people who are coming into an emergency room with headaches, body aches, vomiting, nausea diarrhea, fatigue, and skin rashes, may actually have a mild infection from West Nile.
The symptoms are not very specific and people don’t always assume they have West Nile. In fact, the Center for Disease and Control, reports that 8 out of 10 people infected will show no symptoms at all. Dr. Emran states that most people are sick for a couple of days and then recover quickly.
About 1% of people can develop a life-threatening complication called encephalitis or meningitis. In this situation, the illness becomes so severe that the brain and spinal cord are seriously affected.
The symptoms range from having a very high fever, severe headaches or even becoming extremely disoriented, confusion, muscle paralysis, weakness or seizures. From these cases, some will actually die. The news does tend to focus on these rare cases which cause increased anxiety about the general public.
Dr. Emran recommends avoiding mosquitoes at all cost. Mosquitoes need to be near water and public areas to multiple and transmit disease. Mosquito repellants are highly effective and safe. Even products that contain DEET are safe enough for most children and adults to use, despite warning labels. The risk of infections outweighs the risk of chemical exposure in certain cases.
There are no ways to vaccinate against the West Nile virus but that could change with future studies and research. Women who breastfeed have a tiny chance of transmitting the virus to an infant, but Dr. Emran advises that women continue to breastfeed because breast milk has so many benefits.
- For the majority of people, West Nile will come and go, having symptoms like the flu, and is not harmful.
- Sometimes the infection can develop into major infections like encephalitis or meningitis
- Symptoms include headaches, body aches, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue and skin rashes
- Avoid mosquitoes by wearing repellant and avoid areas outside that have puddles of water
- If you have pre-existing conditions, like diabetes or cancer, West Nile can be life-threatening
- Before you donate blood, make them aware that you are or was sick with flu-like symptoms.
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If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Dr. Emran and Simple Health Radio do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, consults, or any other information that may be mentioned on this website or radio podcast.
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