Gearing up for another West Nile virus season

A child applies bug spray.

With the onset of summer comes an increase in mosquitoes. Besides being a nuisance that can interrupt our outdoor activities, mosquitoes can also bring disease. West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1

West Nile often goes undetected

Most people who contract West Nile do not experience any symptoms, according to the CDC.2 Roughly 1 in 5 will develop a fever or other symptoms.

In less than 1% of West Nile cases, those infected develop a serious illness such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord).3 The mortality rate from these types of nervous system complications can be as high as 10%.

Encephalitis or meningitis may be accompanied by high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

People over 60, or those who have health conditions like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease or have received organ transplants, are at higher risk for those types of severe nervous-system illnesses.4

You should be aware of West Nile and take it seriously if you believe you or a loved one has been infected.

Ways to help protect yourself

There are no preventive vaccines or medications to treat this virus. However, there are ways you can help prevent West Nile from being transmitted to you and your family.

In North America, mosquito season usually runs from the summer through the fall—and mosquito season is West Nile season2. Using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing can help prevent mosquito bites.

According to the CDC,5 you can take the following precautions inside and outside of your home:

  • Put screens on doors and windows, and repair any holes to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Use air conditioning, but if it’s not available or you’re sleeping outdoors, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
  • Because mosquitoes lay eggs near water, once a week empty and scrub, turn over, cover or throw out items holding water. That includes things like pools, trash containers, birdbaths, flowerpots, tires or buckets both inside and outside your home.

Visit the CDC Prevention page, opens new window to learn more about what kind of repellents to use and other useful prevention measures for you and your family.

If you think you may have West Nile symptoms or a person in your family may have contracted the virus, contact your healthcare provider.

Don’t have a doctor or need to find a new one? Search the Humana physician list , opens new window .

Resources

CDC West Nile virus information, opens new window
Check out FAQs and information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and transmission.

Directory of local health departments, opens new window
Find your local health department with this directory from the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

West Nile virus, opens new window
This provides a background on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Where to go for care, opens new window
This discusses your best options for medical care, depending on the type and severity of your health issue.

Sources

  1. “West Nile Virus,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html, opens new window .
  2. “Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment,” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, last accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/symptoms/index.html, opens new window .
  3. “Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment”
  4. “Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment”
  5. “Prevention,” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, last accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html, opens new window .