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Russia Warns of West Nile Virus: Know All About the Mosquito-borne Disease that Can Cause Deadly Nervous Condition

There are no vaccinations or treatments available to prevent or treat West Nile virus in humans. (File photo/Reuters)

There are no vaccinations or treatments available to prevent or treat West Nile virus in humans. (File photo/Reuters)

The West Nile virus originated in Africa and has since spread to Europe, Asia, and North America.

Russia issued a warning on Monday about the possibility of a rise in West Nile Virus (WNV) infections this autumn, citing mild temperatures and heavy precipitation as favourable circumstances for mosquitos that carry the virus.

“In light of favourable climatic conditions this year - an abundance of precipitation… a warm and long autumn, a high number of (virus) carriers could be observed in the autumn," Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer health watchdog, said. More than 80% of West Nile fever cases in Russia are registered in the country’s southwest.

The Associated Press had reported earlier that human cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus were on the rise in North Dakota, with the severity of symptoms resulting in some hospitalizations, according to state health officials. So far, five people have confirmed cases, with four in the hospital, as well as two of six people with pending cases, the report said.

What exactly is the West Nile virus?

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West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is most usually transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

The virus originated in Africa and has since spread to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is mostly transmitted by mosquito bites and can cause a deadly neurological condition in humans, however most affected persons show no symptoms.

What season does the disease mostly occur during, preventive measures?

According to the CDC, most West Nile virus cases occur during mosquito season, which begins in the summer and lasts until the fall. According to the CDC, one out of every 150 infected people develops a serious, often deadly, illness. You can lower your risk of WNV by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid mosquito bites.

Symptoms, Severe Disease

The CDC says the majority of people infected with West Nile virus (8 out of 10) do not exhibit any symptoms. One in every five infected people develops a fever along with additional symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, or rash. Most people who have West Nile virus fever recover completely, but lethargy and weakness might continue for weeks or months.

However, according to the CDC, around one in every 150 people infected develops a severe infection involving the central nervous system, such as encephalitis (brain inflammation) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

High temperature, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, visual loss, numbness, and paralysis are all symptoms of severe sickness.

Persons of any age can develop serious sickness; however, people over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of developing severe illness if infected (1 in 50 people). People with specific medical disorders, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplant recipients, are also at a higher risk.

According to the CDC, healing from a serious illness might take weeks or months, and some effects on the central nervous system can be permanent.

Treatment

There are no vaccinations or treatments available to prevent or treat West Nile virus in humans, and around one in every five people who become infected develop a fever and other symptoms. Over-the-counter pain remedies can be used to decrease temperature and relieve some symptoms, but in severe cases, patients must often be hospitalised to get supportive care such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.

With inputs from Reuters.

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first published:August 30, 2021, 17:19 IST