West Nile Virus – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

West Nile Virus – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

A virus called West Nile is transmitted by mosquito bites. Most of these infections result in no symptoms at all. One in five persons gets symptoms such as rash, fever, and sore muscles. Rarely, severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord can result from West Nile.

West Nile Virus

Mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus. A few other animals, horses, birds, mosquitoes, and people can all contract the West Nile virus. Rarely, the virus can infect a fetus through the placenta, in donated organs, or through transfusions of blood.

In regions with temperate climates, it happens in late summer or early autumn. In warmer southern areas, it can also happen all year round. This often results in mild, flu-like symptoms. However, the virus can result in fatal conditions like:

  • Brain inflammation, or encephalitis
  • Meningitis is an inflammation of the spinal cord and brain lining.
  • Also, meningoencephalitis, or inflammation of the membrane enclosing the brain


In most cases, the first signs of West Nile virus appear three to fourteen days after the bite. Also, the intensity of this issue’s symptoms varies. Among the severe symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Weakened muscles
  • Loss of eyesight
  • Also, numbness
  • Coma
  • Paralysis

A serious infection may persist for a few weeks. Rarely, a serious infection may result in irreversible brain damage.

Generally speaking, a small infection goes away quickly. Its mild strains might be mistaken for the flu. Among the symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Also, bodily pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Also, enlarged lymph nodes
  • Rash on the back, stomach, or chest

Causes of West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is often spread by infected mosquitoes. The mosquito attacks a human or another animal after first biting an infected bird. Rarely, the virus can be transferred and the sickness is transmitted through organ donations, lactation, and pregnancy.

Diagnosis and Tests

To check for antibodies or other indications of a West Nile virus infection, a healthcare professional might test your blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). These tests are often only performed in cases of severe illness. Moreover, they will do an MRI or CT scan to obtain pictures of your brain if there are indications of inflammation in the brain.


There is no treatment for West Nile virus because it is a viral illness. However, over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen can help with West Nile virus symptoms including headaches and muscular pains. Moreover, your doctor may administer intravenous fluids and drugs to reduce the risk of infections if you have brain swelling or other serious symptoms.

Studies on interferon treatment for West Nile virus are ongoing. The goal of interferon treatment is to treat encephalitis in West Nile virus-infected individuals by utilizing molecules made by your immune system. Studies seem encouraging, but the effectiveness of these treatments for encephalitis is still up for debate.

Additional therapies under investigation for encephalitis associated with West Nile virus include:

  • Polyclonal immunoglobulin intravenous (IGIV)
  • WNV recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody (MGAWN1)
  • Also, corticosteroids

If you have encephalitis and your symptoms are severe or potentially fatal, your doctor may talk you through one or more of these therapies.

The Bottom Line

Mosquitoes are mostly just an annoying nuisance. However, occasionally they can spread viruses that can infect you. Thankfully, 80% of West Nile cases never show any symptoms.

Also, the likelihood of most people being seriously ill is quite low. You can take precautions against mosquito bites if you think you could be in their area. Also, if you do get bitten, visit a doctor if you get West Nile symptoms. Thus, they can address any queries you may have. Moreover, they assist you in understanding what severe symptoms you need to look out for.