Watch Out for West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus is having a major moment in Arizona this year and it’s important we all pay attention.
People get this virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. In 2020, Arizona had just 11 confirmed cases. In 2021 so far, there are an average of 25 cases every week since cases began for around 135 cases total and 5 deaths (as of 9/23/21), with no indication of it slowing down anytime soon.
While we all celebrated the much-needed rain we are getting here in Arizona this year, that rain is also why we have record-high cases this year.
NOAH’s Medical Director Dr. Vanyo-Novak shares what symptoms to look for, when to see a provider, and how to prevent mosquito bites.
“West Nile Virus symptoms include sudden fever, headache, joint aches, muscle aches, back pain, and decreased appetite,” said Dr. Vanyo-Novak. “Other, less common symptoms include eye pain, sore throat, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. And, between 25-50% of patients get an itchy rash on the chest, back and arms.”
Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus will never develop any symptoms. And, because it is only spread through mosquito bites, an infected person can’t spread it to another person.
“Symptoms usually come on anywhere from two to 14 days after mosquito bite and can last for up to 10 days,” said Dr. Vanyo-Novak. “Please contact us if you are feeling unwell and have some of the above symptoms.”
While most people either never develop symptoms, or recover on their own, West Nile Virus can be dangerous. This happens when the virus spreads to the nervous system.
“The more serious symptoms like vision changes, balance issues, intense headaches, light sensitivity, confusion, or paralysis need to be addressed immediately,” stressed Dr. Vanyo-Novak. “These can indicate the person developing meningitis or encephalitis. If experiencing any of these symptoms go to the ER.”
Because it is a virus, there is no cure for this infections. That’s why preventing mosquito bites is important.
“You can prevent West Nile Virus by staying indoors, limiting or avoiding standing water outside your home (puddles, bird baths, pools), and using mosquito repellent.”
The CDC shares a few more prevention tips here to help your family, friends, and neighbors avoid pesky mosquito bites and avoid the West Nile Virus.