Symptoms

Around eighty percent of people who have been infected with the West Nile virus will not develop any symptoms, however, the remaining twenty percent may suffer from Febrile illness. This means that they will develop a fever along with symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Joint pains
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rash

Although most people with this kind of West Nile Virus disease fully recover, weakness and fatigue can last for months.

In very few people (around 1 in 150) who have been infected develop a severe illness. This can affect the central nervous system, like encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain. It may also be meningitis, which is the inflammation of the membranes surrounding both the spinal cord and brain. The likes of these illnesses that affect the central nervous system kill one in ten sufferers. The recovery from such illnesses can take weeks or months, with some effects on the central nervous system being potentially permanent.

Severe illness is shown in symptoms such as:

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

Severe illness may occur in people of any age, although those over 60 pose a higher risk along with those suffering certain medical conditions. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • cancer
  • hypertension
  • kidney disease
  • Organ transplant patients

Diagnosis

If you develop symptoms that are in line with those described above, you should visit your healthcare provider, who may order tests to look for the West Nile virus infection. Visit the Healthcare Providers page for more information.

Treatment

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatments available to aid recovery from the West Nile virus infection. Pain relief found over-the-counter at your local pharmacy or drugstore can help control fever and help sooth some symptoms.

With cases that are more severe, the patient will need to be hospitalised where they can get supportive treatment. This may include pain medication, nursing care and intravenous fluids. If you suspect that you or someone you may know could have the West Nile virus disease, it is important that you speak to your health care provider to get further advice. You may find out more about treatment by visiting our Healthcare Providers page.

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