West Nile Encephalitis (cont.)
Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP
Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- West Nile virus facts
- What is the history of West Nile virus?
- Where did the West Nile virus come from?
- How do people get West Nile virus?
- How do mosquitoes get infected with the West Nile virus?
- Is the West Nile virus contagious?
- Besides mosquitoes, can other insects transmit the West Nile virus?
- Are there other viruses like the West Nile virus?
- What is the incubation period for a West Nile virus infection?
- What are West Nile virus infection symptoms and signs?
- When is there an increased risk for West Nile virus infection?
- Who is at risk for getting a West Nile virus infection?
- Can you get West Nile virus infection from a blood transfusion?
- Can you get West Nile virus infection from having an organ transplantation?
- How do health care professionals diagnose a West Nile virus infection?
- What is the treatment for West Nile virus? Is it possible to prevent West Nile virus infection with a vaccine?
- Is a woman's pregnancy at risk if she gets infected with the West Nile virus?
- What is the prognosis of West Nile virus infection?
- What can a community do to reduce the risk of an outbreak of the West Nile virus?
- What can a person do to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the West Nile virus?
What is the incubation period for a West Nile virus infection?
The incubation period (the time from infection to the development of symptoms) is five to 15 days.
What are West Nile virus infection symptoms and signs?
Mild or symptom-free infections are common with the West Nile virus. Among all people who become infected, only two out of 10 develop any symptoms. Of those, most only have mild symptoms similar to those of the flu, such as headache, body aches, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. The symptoms are not severe enough for most people to seek medical care, but tiredness and weakness can last for several weeks. Typically, only one in 150 infections lead to severe or neuroinvasive (nervous system disease) infections, according to the CDC. Neuroinvasive disease is caused by infection and inflammation of the surface covering of the brain (meningitis) or deeper infection of the brain itself (encephalitis).
Neuroinvasive disease is uncommon but more likely to occur in those over age 50. There are two general symptoms of neuroinvasive disease. Meningitis is marked by headache, high fever, and neck stiffness. Encephalitis causes these symptoms but may progress to stupor (sleepiness), disorientation, hallucinations, paralysis, coma, tremors, convulsions, and rarely death. Sometimes general weakness progressing to complete paralysis occurs, similar to polio; this is called acute flaccid paralysis.
West Nile virus can have some long-term effects after severe illnesses. West Nile virus meningitis or encephalitis may result in a prolonged recuperation and rehabilitation period, especially in the elderly. Memory loss, depression, irritability, and confusion are the most prevalent residual effects.
Symptoms in children and babies are basically the same as symptoms in adults. Children may complain of headache, may have a fever, and may become lethargic.
Since most cases of West Nile virus infection are mild, the prognosis for recovery is generally good. In severe cases, death rates are highest in the elderly.
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