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West nile fever: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About West nile fever

This infection is a zoonosis caused by West Nile virus, a flavivirus transmitted from birds and animals by Culex mosquitoes. Originally confined to Israel and the Nile region, it has recently spread, probably via infected birds, to parts of USA and Europe (e.g. Portugal).

West nile fever:Incidence, age & sex

All residents of areas where active cases have been identified are at risk of developing West Nile virus infection. People who are 50 years of age or older have the highest risk for more severe cases and children appear to be at low risk for the disease.

Signs and symptoms of west nile fever: Diagnosis

The majority of cases present with a ‘flu-like syndrome’ with fever, headache, chills, excessive sweating, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, drowsiness, pain in the joints and relatively mild meningitic or encephalitic symptoms.

Causes & prevention of west nile fever

It is caused by a virus of the family Flaviviridae. It mainly infects birds, and human infection is through the bite of an infected mosquito. Prevention is by elimination of mosquito breeding sites, larviciding active breeding areas and encouraging personal use of mosquito repellents.

West nile fever: Complications

A small proportion of elderly or very young sufferers (< 1%) present with a severe encephalitic illness with cranial nerve signs, ataxia and extrapyramidal features; these may evolve to the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

West nile fever: Treatment

If there is a history of travel to relevant areas the diagnosis should be sought by IgM serology or demonstration of the virus from CSF samples. Supportive therapy is all that can be offered and the disease carries a significant mortality. There have also been attempts to treat infections using ribavirin, intravenous immunoglobulin, or alpha interferon.