Dr. Rachel: Zika has taken center stage, but what about West Nile?

Dr. Rachel
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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - It's summertime, and that means the bugs are out in full force. Dr. Rachel explains how West Nile Virus works.

Dr. Rachel says that it's that time of year again! Time to worry about mosquitos and West Nile Virus.

But how does the virus get from mosquitoes to us? West Nile actually interacts with mosquitos and birds. Some birds develop high levels of the virus in their bloodstream. When a mosquito bites a bird with high levels of the virus, they become infected. After a week or so, the infected mosquito can pass the virus to more birds and mammals, including humans, through bites.

West Nile can also be spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mom to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding - but this is not common.

Symptoms usually occur two to six days after the bite, but about 70-80% of people who become infected with the West Nile Virus do not develop any symptoms.  Only one in five people will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, weakness, and body aches. The virus may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most with West Nile virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

In less than one percent of people, the virus can cause a serious neurological infection. Signs and symptoms of this include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, disorientation or confusion, tremors or muscle jerking, seizures, or coma. This is very rare. In other rare cases, people can get sudden paralysis. About 10 percent of people who develop a neurologic infection from West Nile Virus will die.

As of now, there is no treatment for West Nile, so Dr. Rachel recommends that you wear your mosquito repellent and do what you need to do to avoid being bitten by those "little buggers!"

Do you have an email for Dr. Rachel? Send it her way at drRachel@wgno.com.


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