West Nile virus – Symptoms and treatment
Most (80 per cent) people who become infected with West Nile virus (WNv) have no symptoms. When infection does cause illness, symptoms will usually appear within 2–14 days. Symptoms vary from person to person.
- In cases of West Nile Non-Neurological Syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) symptoms can include fever, severe headache, chills and body aches.
- Some people may also develop a rash, or swollen lymph glands.
In more severe cases, known as West Nile Neurological Syndrome, symptoms include the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, nausea, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, decreased level of consciousness, tremors, lack of coordination, muscle weakness and paralysis.
- Anyone who has a sudden onset of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
In rare cases, these conditions can be fatal. Persons over 50 years and individuals with weaker immune systems are at greater risk of developing more severe symptoms and health effects that are more serious.
Because WNv is an emerging disease, the long-term effects are not fully understood. Studies to date show that some people with serious symptoms and health effects recover completely, while others experience prolonged health problems. These problems can include:
- Physical effects such as long-term muscle weakness and paralysis;
- Fatigue and headache;
- Cognitive effects, such as confusion, depression, problems with concentration and memory loss;
- Functional effects, such as difficulty with preparing meals, going out and shopping.
Scientists do not know why some people recover while others continue to have varying degrees of health problems.
There is no specific treatment, medication, or cure for WNv West Nile Non-Neurological Syndrome (formerly known as West Nile fever) or neurological syndrome.
Serious cases may require hospital or nursing care and are treated with supportive therapies to ease symptoms and prevent secondary infections.