In recent weeks there has been a surge of West Nile Virus in Israel. A few hundred people have been infected and several people (elderly or immunocompromised) have died in recent weeks.
West Nile Virus is a virus spread by mosquitoes who have fed off of infected birds. The incubation period is 5-21 days on average. The virus peak activity according to the Israel Ministry of Health is mid-August to mid-October. According to the CDC, 80% of people infected have no noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus for the remaining 20% of infected individuals are usually mild flu-like symptoms including a low-grade fever, body or muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, and rash. Less than 1% of infected people will develop serious symptoms affecting the nervous system which may include high fever, neck stiffness, headache, disorientation, seizures, vision changes, numbness and in very serious cases coma, brain inflammation, and death is possible.
People at highest risk for developing complications or serious illness include people over age 60, people with chronic illness such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease and immunosuppressed conditions.
Preventing West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus can be prevented with adequate mosquito protection especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active, although they can be active in shady areas throughout the day. Mosquito repellants should be applied to all exposed skin areas, and long sleeves and long pants/ skirts should be worn if possible. Women who wear skirts should use repellent on their lower legs even above the skirt line.
What can I do if I was bitten by a mosquito?
Most mosquito bites are harmless but annoying. If symptoms described develop within 3 weeks of the mosquito bite, report to a physician. Treatment is supportive only, as there is no vaccine or medication for the virus. That means the symptoms can be treated with over the counter medications, such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen.
People who develop more severe symptoms may need to be hospitalized to get more intensive treatment such as IV fluids and medications.