August 19, 2019

What You Need to Know About West Nile Virus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of mosquito-borne illness in the United States is West Nile Virus. In 2018, New Jersey reported 61 cases of West Nile Virus, including three deaths in Bergen County. The CDC reports that nationwide in 2019, 10 cases of West Nile Virus had been reported as of June 25th.

West Nile Virus was discovered in the United States in 1999, and is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.  Mosquitoes become infected with the virus through feeding on birds who are already carrying the virus.

The mosquitoes then transmit the virus to humans by biting them. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 people infected with West Nile virus typically do not develop any symptoms of the virus. Those who do develop symptoms experience a high fever, headache, disorientation, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, and more.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of West Nile Virus, see your primary care provider, as they can order tests for West Nile Virus. There is no vaccine for West Nile Virus, however, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve some of the symptoms, including fever. If you are diagnosed with a severe case of West Nile Virus, you may need to be hospitalized during recovery.

The virus is not spread by coughing, touching, or sneezing. It also cannot be transmitted by touching live animals or handling infected birds, alive or dead. If you are handling a dead animal, the CDC recommends that you avoid bare-handed contact.

To protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, there are several things you can do:

-Use insect repellant that contains at least one of the active ingredients registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These include DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), 2-undecanone, IR3535, picaridin, and para-menthane-diol. 

-Follow instructions when applying insect repellant to children, including not using repellant on children younger than 2 months.

-When heading outside, especially to a heavily wooded area, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.


If you or someone you know is needing care for West Nile Virus, please visit to find a Primary Care Provider. 



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