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You Asked: Do I Need to Worry About West Nile Virus?

You're asking and I'm answering.

Dear Fit,
I am a magnet for mosquitoes and a friend said I better watch out for West Nile Virus. Is she right? Is this another disease I need to worry about?
—Bitten, Itchy, and Paranoid

I have been hearing about West Nile Virus (WNV) more and more. It is an illness spread by infected mosquitoes with most cases reported in the Summer and early Fall when infected mosquitoes are more likely to be actively biting us. About 80 percent of people infected with WNV will experience no symptoms (that's good news), but 20 percent will come down with mild symptoms that are similar to a cold — headache, fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes develop a skin rash. The symptoms usually pass after a few days but can linger for up to a few weeks. There are a few unlucky people – one out of every 150 – who develop more severe symptoms, like: high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, muscle weakness, convulsions, vision loss, numbness, and possibly coma.

If you've been bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms appear within three to 14 days. There's no specific treatment for WNV, as it usually runs its course and subsides on its own. If symptoms are serious, a trip to the hospital may be in order.

If you're wondering how to protect yourself from contracting WNV then


Unfortunately, the more time you spend outside, the more you are at risk for becoming a meal for an infected mosquito. You can't live inside forever though, so do what you can to avoid getting bit.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants in areas that are crowded with these buggers to prevent bites.
  • Use bug spray especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Look for ones that contain EPA-recommended ingredients such as DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 (ethyl ester). Be sure to read the bottle carefully and use them as directed.
  • Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, be sure to dump out any water that might have collected in flowerpots, buckets, or barrels. Also, clean out your pet's water dish daily and bird baths weekly.
  • Make sure the windows and doors where you live or work are either closed or have screens on them.

Fit's Tips: If you think you may be coming down with a serious case of WNV, contact your doctor to see what they recommend.


Join The Conversation
Hootie Hootie 9 years
People must eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs! Too bad not everyone cares enough to do it.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
Yeah, the breed of mosquito that carries WNV reproduces in stagnant water that's found in containers like old tires, buckets, etc. So if you get rid of those containers, you can reduce your risk quite a bit.
Hootie Hootie 9 years
West Nile Virus is no joke. I live in an area where birds are found dead from it all the time. :(
DrMoskowitz DrMoskowitz 9 years
After 6 years, this isn’t funny any more. My biotech company, GenoMed (OTC Pink Sheets: GMED) has had encouraging results treating West Nile virus encephalitis since 2003: 81% treatment success rate in people (22 of 27), 75% in horses, and 50% in birds. Our first 8 WNV patients were published in a peer-reviewed medical journal in 2004, so our treatment officially exists in the medico-legal sense. Note that physicians are expected to keep up with the medical literature in order to retain their state license, i.e. everybody’s doctor should know about this paper. Why the CDC won’t tell the public about it suggests how degraded public health has become since its high water mark in the 1950s, when it defeated polio. No state health department will tell their residents about our trial. They act offended that we would even ask them to. FEMA isn’t the only government agency guilty of gross negligence. We’re eager to see if our approach works again this year. Anybody who wants to download our WNV trial protocol can do so for free at any time by clicking on the "West Nile trial" link on our company’s homepage at Dave Moskowitz MD CEO & Chief Medical Officer GenoMed, Inc. “The public health company™”
risqueredhead risqueredhead 9 years
that picture is so gross. :p
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
nah. this only shows up in the news when something really important happened in the middle east and Disney ABC wants to distract the general television viewer.
kiddylnd kiddylnd 9 years
I work at an animal shelter and we are required to take WNV training once a year. The one thing to remember is to clear your yard of standing water which is where the eggs incubate and hatch from. This keeps them away from you as much as possible. Also, WNV symptoms will likely show up more in persons over 50.
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