Q&A on the News

Q: How is a person determined to have contracted West Nile Virus?

— Vance Oakes, Bethlehem

A: West Nile Virus can be determined through a blood test or test of spinal fluid, according to the Mayo Clinic. Serious symptoms show up in only one of 150 people who are infected with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent, according to the CDC. Up to 20 percent of people who become infected may have a combination of fever, headaches and body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Almost 80 percent of the people infected with West Nile Virus display no symptoms. West Nile Virus is most often spread through the bites of mosquitoes, which are infected when they feed on infected birds, according to the CDC. Symptoms typically develop between 3-14 days after being bitten and there is no specific treatment for the West Nile Virus infection. Some people may need to go to the hospital in the more severe cases, where "they can receive supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care," according to the CDC, which warns that people should seek immediate medical attention if they develop severe symptoms, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).