West Nile Virus: Symptoms And When Should We Worry

West Nile Virus (WNV), a close relative of Dengue virus, is a zoonotic disease transmitted to humans by the bite of a Culex mosquito. While only 20% of patients develop symptoms, including fever, headache, and rash, less than 1% may experience severe complications like meningitis, encephalitis, or poliomyelitis.

Dr. Vishal Wadhwa from Metropolis Healthcare Limited notes that although WNV hasn’t caused an epidemic in India since 2011, isolated cases have been reported, making diagnosis challenging due to symptom overlap with other mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria.

Dr. Madhumitha, an infectious disease specialist from MGM Healthcare, explains that while 80% of those infected with WNV remain asymptomatic, about 20% develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, with some experiencing severe neurological complications like encephalitis or meningitis.

Severe illness affects about 1 in 150 people, leading to symptoms like high fever, disorientation, coma, and paralysis. Elderly individuals and those with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of severe complications.

Prevention strategies include mosquito control measures and minimizing outdoor activities during peak mosquito activity. Vaccines and supportive care are available for severe cases. Early recognition of symptoms and prompt medical attention are crucial for effective management of WNV infections.