Guide To West Nile Virus Symptoms

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease. Its symptoms can be so mild that the infected person doesn't know they have it, to life-threatening when the disorder leads to encephalitis or meningitis. Individuals who have compromised immune systems are in the most danger from the West Nile virus, which is related to the viruses that cause such devastating diseases as dengue fever and yellow fever. As of 2019, there is no vaccine or real treatment for West Nile virus. The only way to prevent it is to discourage mosquitoes from biting. It is most often spread by a Culex mosquito that has picked up the virus from an infected bird. Individuals can also get the virus from ticks, organ transplants, and blood transfusions. Get to know the symptoms associated with West Nile virus now.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Some patients who get West Nile virus may think they have the flu because it can have flu-like symptoms. These symptoms, like those of the flu, come on hard and fast. They include fever, aches all over the body, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Some patients also find their lymph glands are swollen, and others develop a rash. The rash is most often seen on their back, chest, or abdomen. Even though these symptoms can make the patient miserable, they do not last long and are considered the milder symptoms of West Nile virus. They are signs the body is fighting off the infection.

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Neck Stiffness

Neck stiffness with West Nile virus is more problematic than flu-like symptoms because a stiff neck might be a sign encephalitis or meningitis is developing. With this symptom, the neck itself is sore, and the patient has pain when they try to move it, especially if they try to move their neck forward. This is called nuchal rigidity. It is different from the stiff neck that happens with a strain or sprain, as in those cases the individual has pain when they try to move their head from side to side. The neck stiffness associated with a case of meningitis or encephalitis that's a complication of West Nile virus happens because the meninges have become inflamed. The meninges are the three layers of tissue that protect the brain and run down the spinal cord. Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain itself.

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Disorientation And Memory Loss

When complications from West Nile virus occur, they can also lead to disorientation and memory loss. These are symptoms of meningitis, encephalitis, or a combination of the two called meningoencephalitis. These severe symptoms most often strike older adults whose immune systems aren't as strong as they used to be and other individuals with weakened immune systems. The symptoms occur when the virus breaches the blood-brain barrier, a mechanism the body sets up to keep toxins and pathogens out of the brain. Patients who have these symptoms should be hospitalized, as they may need IV fluids or be placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.

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Hallucinations mean the patient is seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, or smelling something that is not there. This happens when the virus leads to encephalitis, and because the brain is inflamed, it can't work properly. One of the results is disorders in the patient's sensory input. The West Nile virus is a neurotropic virus, which means it attacks the nervous system and indeed prefers to attack the nervous system above any other system in the body. If a patient is going to hallucinate, the hallucinations will probably appear a few days after flu-like symptoms appear.

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Convulsions (also called seizures) are violent, uncontrollable, and sudden movements of the body. They happen when the muscles suddenly contract. They are erratic and in the case of West Nile virus, can be accompanied by a change in the patient's consciousness. Though seizures can affect the entire body, they can also affect one limb at a time. It is impossible to tell whether a convulsion will last only a few seconds or last for minutes or even hours. An individual who has seizures due to West Nile virus infection needs to be hospitalized. The one piece of good news about convulsions is they are a relatively rare complication of a West Nile virus infection.