Your Health & Wellness

Protect Yourself From West Nile Virus

When the weather warms, the mosquito population increases and so does your chance of contracting West Nile Virus. Here is some information about the disease and how to limit your contact with those potentially disease-carrying insects. This virus is likely to continue until the first freeze this fall. 

Banner Health, together with our local health departments, and the Center for Disease Control, is taking an active role in helping to prevent, detect and treat the virus.

West Nile Virus Prevention

The mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Virus are most active between dusk and dawn but people should avoid mosquito bites at any time. While there is no treatment for West Nile Virus, it is important to remember that infection is preventable

Prevention strategies include:

  • Drain standing water around your house weekly since this is where mosquitoes lay their eggs. This should include tires, cans, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, rain barrels, toys and puddles. If you have decorative ponds, either treat them with bleach or commercial larvacide products to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs or drain them.
  • Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active.
  • DEET is an effective ingredient to look for in insect repellents. Always follow the label instructions. Repellents with 10 percent DEET are approved for pediatric use.
  • Golfers need to use repellent. They are at increased risk of exposure to mosquitoes, especially during early morning hours when there is dew in the grass and in water features around the course.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants during dusk and dawn or in areas where mosquitoes are active. 

West Nile Virus Symptoms

West Nile virus is a disease that is usually transmitted by mosquitoes. It has been common in Africa, west Asia and the Middle East for decades and has been slowly traveling across the United States since 1999.

It is very rare to catch this illness, and most infected people will not get sick or will have only mild symptoms. However, West Nile virus can be fatal. We want you to have the facts, in order to ease your fears, and so that you can take appropriate prevention measures.

Common mild symptoms of West Nile include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Skin rash on the trunk of the body
  • Swollen lymph glands

Severe symptoms include: (West Nile, encephalitis or meningitis)

  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis

It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease.

West Nile Virus Treatment

West Nile Virus infection goes undetected in most individuals. In those that develop symptoms, they can range from mild headache, body aches and fever to more severe symptoms including weakness, mental status changes, flaccid paralysis, meningitis, encephalitis and death.  Some patients also experience a rash.

  • Severe West Nile Virus infection only occurs in one out of 150 of those infected.
  • People over age 50, and folks whose immune systems are already compromised are at an increased risk for symptoms of West Nile Virus infection.
  • Mild illness should be treated with rest, fluids, and the use of over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • If you have concerns about your symptoms, please contact your physician.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the incubation period in humans (i.e., time from infection to onset of disease symptoms) for West Nile encephalitis? Approximately three to 14 days
  • How long will symptoms last? Symptoms of mild disease will generally last a few days. Symptoms of severe disease may last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent.
  • What should I do if I think I have been infected with West Nile? Contact your physician

Learn more about the West Nile Virus from the following resources:

Get the latest health tips!

Sign up for our healthy living newsletter