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What is West Nile fever? Check causes, symptoms, treatment and more

What is West Nile fever? Check causes, symptoms, treatment and more

What is West Nile fever? Check causes, symptoms, treatment and more
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By CNBCTV18.com May 30, 2022 5:36:39 PM IST (Published)

Kerala’s state health department has issued an alert against the spread of the vector borne disease after the death of a 47-year-old man in Thrissur district.

Following the death of a 47-year-old man who was undergoing treatment for West Nile fever in Kerala's Thrissur district, the state health department has issued an alert against the spread of the disease. This is the first fatality in the state caused by West Nile fever in the last three years. The health department has also issued an advisory for people to stay safe.

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What is West Nile Fever?
West Nile Fever is a vector-borne disease caused by the West Nile virus. The virus is spread by the Culex species of mosquitoes. The disease was first detected in Uganda in 1937. In India, the fever was first detected in Kerala in 2011 and another case was seen in Kerala again in 2019 when a six-year-old boy from Malappuram died due to the infection, according to a Live Mint report.
The West Nile virus commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes get infected when they feed on other dead/infected birds and animals. These infected mosquitoes then transmit the virus to people and other animals by biting them.
The West Nile virus also spreads through exposure in a laboratory setting, blood transfusion and from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breast feeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USA.
The West Nile fever can cause fatal neurological diseases in humans. However, most of those infected show no symptoms.
As per the CDC, about 1 in 5 infected patients develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, or rash. People suffering from fever due to West Nile virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
Severe illness is seen in 1 in 150 people that affect the central nervous system causing encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).
High fever, headache, stiffness in neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis are symptoms associated with severe illness due to West Nile fever.
Recovery in cases of severe illness might take several weeks or months and some damage to the central nervous system may be permanent.
About 1 out of 10 people with severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.
Treatment and prevention
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or vaccine or for the West Nile fever. However, over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms as per the CDC.
Patients with severe illness need to be hospitalized for supportive treatment and nursing care.
The spread of the West Nile virus can be prevented by eliminating mosquito breeding around living space. Kerala state health department has issued directions for people on how to eliminate mosquito breeding sites. Experts recommend carrying out source detection to further eliminate the spread of the disease.
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