West Nile Virus In Children
We hear the warnings and scary stories every summer and fall, but what is the West Nile virus, exactly? West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness. Once only found in the Eastern Hemisphere, it has now been reported in all U.S. states except for Alaska. It can only be contracted through a mosquito bite; contact with an infected person does not transmit the disease. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of cases are mild and run their course without treatment, and many don’t result in any symptoms at all. However, the virus can cause serious complications.
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Often people who contract the virus don’t even know they have it. However, about 1 in 5 people will experience various symptoms, including: fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and/or fatigue. These symptoms show up between 2 to 14 days after a mosquito bite.
1 in 150 people will experience severe symptoms. In these cases, the virus causes encephalitis and meningitis. If your child’s headaches become severe, they develop a high fever, seizure, or stiff neck, have muscle spasms or muscle weakness, or show symptoms of being disoriented, seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment of West Nile virus:
For those who experience no symptoms, treatment is not needed. For children who experience mild symptoms, pain medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) can be given to help them feel better. More severe reactions can require hospitalization.
Prevention of West Nile virus:
As with other mosquito borne illnesses, protecting yourself and your kids from West Nile virus involves protecting yourself from mosquitoes. Be sure to wear mosquito repellent when outdoors, and ideally wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Keep your yard free from standing water (empty or cover pools, gutters, pet’s water bowls, and other places where water may collect) as these are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Dusk and dawn are prime times for mosquito activity, so try to limit your outdoor activities at these hours of the day.
If you’re concerned about West Nile virus or any other mosquito borne illnesses, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician.