What You Need to Know: West Nile Virus

Mosquitoes in Georgia test positive for West Nile — What to know about the virus

This story has been updated.

The Fulton County Board of Health on Wednesday announced the county’s first case of the West Nile virus in 2019.

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As of Aug. 20, a total of 41 states and the District of Columbia have reported infections in mosquitoes, birds, sentinel animals or veterinary, according to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, 34 people in Georgia were found to have the virus, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. A Dunwoody woman died from the disease.

The West Nile virus, an infection typically spread to humans by mosquito bites, begins in the summer and continues through fall.

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While 80% of people infected with the virus don’t develop symptoms, 1 in 5 develop common symptoms, including:

  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches
  • joint pains
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • rash

Infected people with the aforementioned symptoms usually recover, though fatigue can exceed weeks and months.

But more serious cases of West Nile virus can also be deadly.

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According to the CDC, about 1 in 150 people infected with the virus develop a severe illness impacting the central nervous system and potentially leading to inflammation of the brain, spinal cord and surrounding membranes.

Those with severe cases may develop the following symptoms:

  • high fever
  • headache
  • neck stiffness
  • stupor
  • disorientation
  • coma
  • tremors
  • convulsions
  • muscle weakness
  • vision loss
  • numbness
  • paralysis

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Such symptoms may disappear after several weeks, but some effects to the brain region may be permanent. About 1 in 10 with severe illness to the central nervous system die.

Your risk for developing a serious West Nile infection increases if you’re over the age of 60 or suffer with cancer, diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease. Those who have received organ transplants are also at higher risk, according to the CDC.

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There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the infection, but over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to relieve some symptoms. Hospitalized patients may also receive intravenous fluids, pain medication and other supportive treatment and care for severe cases.

“The most effective way to avoid West Nile virus disease is to prevent mosquito bites,” according to the CDC.

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Here are some ways to prevent mosquito bites:

More tips and information at CDC.gov.

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