West Nile Virus FAQ’s

West Nile Virus is the Virus that can cause the Disease West Nile Encepha­litis

Author: Environmental Health Staff/Tuesday, August 7, 2012/Categories: West Nile, West Nile Virus, Health Promotion and Education

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How is it transmitted? 

West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes that are infected with the virus.  Mosquitoes get the virus by feeding on dead birds that are infected.  The incubation period for humans (time of infection to onset of the disease) is usually three to five days. 

Am I at risk of contracting West Nile Encephalitis? 
West Nile Virus has been found primarily in birds.  Mosquitoes carry the virus and can infect humans and other animals such as cats, dogs and horses. In humans, less than 1% of individuals bitten by mosquitoes become infected.  Less than 1% of people who are bitten and become infected become severely ill.  Those at highest risk of infection are individuals 50 and older or if your immune sys­tem is already compromised. 

What are the signs or symptoms of West Nile Encephali­tis? 
Most people infected with West Nile Virus have no symptoms of illness. Some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches.  More severe infection (encephalitis) may be marked by headache, high fever, stiff neck, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.  In very rare instances death may occur. 

What should I do if I think I am infected? 
You should see your doctor immediately if you or your family members develop symptoms such as high fever, confusion, muscle weakness and severe headaches. Your physician will take a medical history to determine your risk.  If you are determined to be at high risk and have symptoms of West Nile Encephalitis, your provider will take a blood sample for testing. 

This fact sheet was modified from brochures prepared by Center for Disease Con­trol (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites 

  • When possible avoid times when mosquitoes bite.  This includes dusk and at night. 
  • Almost all mosquitoes bite if you enter an area where they are resting, like high grass. 
  • Wear light colored protective clothing. Tightly woven mate­rials that cover arms and legs provide some protection from mosquito bites. 
  • Apply insect repellent contain­ing DEET. Be sure to read and follow product directions.  For more information see Using Insect Repellent Safely, from the EPA. 
  • Maintain window and door screening to keep mosquitoes out of the home. 

Preventing Your Home from Becoming a Breeding Place for Mosquitoes 
There are many ways you can help in preventing the spread of West Nile Virus in your community.  Many precautions can be taken right around your home. 

  • Drain standing water in your yard.  Some breeding sites are:  
    • Flower pots 
    • Pet bowls 
    • Clogged rain gutters 
    • Swimming pool covers 
    • Discarded tires 
    • Containers such as buckets, barrels and cans 
  • Change the water in bird baths and plant pots or drip trays at least once each week.
  • Fill or drain any low places (puddles, ruts, etc.) in the yard. 
  • Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water.
  • Keep roof gutters free of leaves and other debris. 
  • Cover trash containers to keep out rainwater. 
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets. 
  • Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store in­doors when not in use.  Unused swimming pools should be drained and kept dry during mosquito season. 
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around the house so adult mosquitoes will not hide there. 

This fact sheet was modified from brochures prepared by Center for Disease Con­trol (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

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Environmental Health Staff

Environmental Health Staff

Environmental Health

Environmental Health

The Will County Environmental Health Department protects public health through programs specifically designed to promote healthy environmental conditions and reduce risks associated with communicable disease.
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