West Nile virus (WNV) is currently the leading mosquito-borne disease across the continental US, and the disease is primarily spread by mosquitoes, with most cases occurring during summer through fall, which is the peak of the mosquito season. To make matters worse, there is currently no vaccine that will prevent the disease and no medication that can treat it. On the other hand, most infections do not result in serious symptoms, with only 20% of the infected developing a fever and some light symptoms, and just 0.7% of those infected developing more serious symptoms or dying from the illness. In 2020, 664 cases of WNV infection were reported to the CDC across the country, with a total of 51,702 cases being reported since the disease was first detected in the US in 1999.
The best way to protect yourself from the WNV is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. There are several ways in which you can do this. The simplest way is to make sure that you always wear clothing that covers your skin, however this is fairly hard to do during the summer. Alternatively, you can use repellent products that contain a minimum of 20% DEET, or wear clothes that have been treated with permethrin. To protect yourself indoors, you will want to make sure that your windows and doors are screened, and that if you have an infestation, you call a pest control specialist to get rid of it.
Symptoms, diagnosis or treatment
Most people (80%) will not develop any symptoms when they are infected with the WNV. Some people (20%) will develop a fever along with other symptoms such as rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, joint pain, body aches and headaches, followed by a full recovery. Severe symptoms only occur in less than 1% of cases, about 1 in 150, where you have encephalitis or meningitis. These symptoms can affect people at any age, but people over 60 and with comorbidities are at greater risk. The diagnosis will be provided through a test for the WNV, and since there is no medication against this virus, treatment will rely mostly on over-the-counter pain relievers that will reduce the fever and other symptoms. In severe cases, the patient will be hospitalized and will receive supportive treatment that includes pain medication and intravenous fluids.