Get informed about the West Nile virus

West Nile is a viral infection that’s usually spread by mosquito bites. Cases of West Nile have been reported in every state in the continental United States.

Most people who contract West Nile do not experience any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, roughly 1 in 5 will develop a fever or other symptoms that may include body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

And in less than 1% of cases of West Nile, 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).1 The mortality rate from these types of nervous system complications can be as high as 10%, with those age 75 or older at particular risk.2

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.2

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 season. Using insect repellant and wearing protective clothing can help prevent mosquito bites.

According to the CDC3, you can take the following precautions inside and outside of your home:

  • Putting screens on doors and windows, and keeping any holes repaired to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Using 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 things 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 (link opens in new window) to learn more about what kind of repellants to use and other useful prevention measures for you and your family.

If you think you may have West Nile virus symptoms

If you feel you or someone in your family may have contracted the West Nile virus, contact your healthcare provider.

Don’t have a doctor or need to find a new one? Search the Humana provider network.

Find an in-network provider

Resources

CDC West Nile Virus Information (link opens in new window) Check out FAQs and information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and transmission.

West Nile Virus Cases Map (link opens in new window) This U.S. Geological Survey map shows where West Nile cases are being reported. You can use it to see if West Nile is a concern in your area.

Directory of Local Health Departments (link opens in new window) Find your local health department with this directory from the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Public Health Resources: State or Territorial Health Departments (link opens in new window) Search the CDC’s list of public health departments by state.

West Nile Virus (link opens in new window) Background on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Encephalitis: Mosquitoes and Ticks (link opens in new window) Information on the different types of encephalitis and how it can be contracted through insect bites.

Where to go for care 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 December 20, 2017, (link opens in new window)https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html.

2. “Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed August 2, 2017, (link opens in new window)https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/symptoms/index.html.

3. “Prevention,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed August 14, 2017, (link opens in new window)https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html.

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