The West Nile Virus > Chapter 1

The West Nile Virus

Presented by
Lance Parks, LCSW and Riki Salerno,RN, BSN


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Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing,
Provider Number CPE 14462 for 7 contact hours.


At the completion of this course the healthcare practitioner will be able to:

1. Summarize information about the virus to patients.

2. Identify the symptoms of WNV

3. Describe ways to prevent WNV

4. Specify what groups are at a high risk for serious illness.

5. Identify Diagnostic factors associated with WNV

I. Introductions and Education of Public/ Patients

The West Nile Virus grabbed headlines a couple of years ago as incidents of serious illness and deaths made some in the public feel that there was an oncoming pandemic.Here was a disease that was spread by mosquitoes that was killing people.There was not then, and there still is not now, a vaccination for the disease.

Although the headlines have died down and been more recently replaced by the possibilities of an avian flu pandemic, it is still important for the healthcare practitioner to knowledgeable regarding this virus. The information for this course has been retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

West Nile Virus: What You Need To Know

CDC Fact Sheet

What Is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. This fact sheet contains important information that can help you recognize and prevent West Nile virus.

What Can I Do to Prevent WNV?

The easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites. When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.

Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours. Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

What Are the Symptoms of WNV?

Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.

No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

How Does West Nile Virus Spread?

Infected Mosquitoes. Most often, WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.

Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child. In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.

Not through touching. WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.

How Soon Do Infected People Get Sick?

People typically develop symptoms between 3 and 14 days after they are bitten by the infected mosquito.

How Is WNV Infection Treated?

There is no specific treatment for WNV infection. In cases with milder symptoms, people experience symptoms such as fever and aches that pass on their own, although even healthy people have become sick for several weeks. In more severe cases, people usually need to go to the hospital where they can receive supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have WNV?

Milder WNV illness improves on its own, and people do not necessarily need to seek medical attention for this infection though they may choose to do so. If you develop symptoms of severe WNV illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately. Severe WNV illness usually requires hospitalization. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are encouraged to talk to their doctor if they develop symptoms that could be WNV.

What Is the Risk of Getting Sick from WNV?

People over 50 at higher risk to get severe illness. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.

Being outside means you're at risk.
The more time you're outdoors, the more time you could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Pay attention to avoiding mosquito bites if you spend a lot of time outside, either working or playing.

Risk through medical procedures is very low.
All donated blood is checked for WNV before being used. The risk of getting WNV through blood transfusions and organ transplants is very small, and should not prevent people who need surgery from having it. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.

Pregnancy and nursing do not increase risk of becoming infected with WNV. The risk that WNV may present to a fetus or an infant infected through breastmilk is still being evaluated. Talk with your care provider if you have concerns.

What Is the CDC Doing About WNV?

CDC is working with state and local health departments, the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies, as well as private industry, to prepare for and prevent new cases of WNV.

Some things CDC is doing include:

1. Coordinating a nation-wide electronic database where states share information about WNV

2. Helping states develop and carry out improved mosquito prevention and control programs

3. Developing better, faster tests to detect and diagnose WNV

4. Creating new education tools and programs for the media, the public, and health professionals

5. Opening new testing laboratories for WNV

6. Working with partners on the development of vaccines

What Else Should I Know?

If you find a dead bird: Don't handle the body with your bare hands. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of the body.

They may tell you to dispose of the bird after they log your report.

For more information call the CDC public response hotline at (888) 246-2675 (English), (888) 246-2857 (Espaol), or (866) 874-2646 (TTY)

This course is recognized for 7 contact hours nationally for Nurses except for Delaware and New York.
Please see our Board Approvals page for further information.
Question No.1. When a person finds a dead bird they should:

a. Contact their local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of the body.
b. Throw it away as quick as possible, even if they need to use their bare hands.
c. Hit it with a shovel to make sure that it is dead.

Question No.2. The following are good ways to prevent mosquito bites EXCEPT:

a. Use insect repellant while outside
b. Wear long pants and sleeves during the dusk and dawn hours
c. Keep good screens on windows and doors
d. Maintain standing water since mosquitoes will drown in it.

Question No.3. What symptoms are NOT associated with a severe infection of WNV?

a. High fever, headache and stupor
b. Disorientation, coma and tremors
c. Convulsions, muscle weakness and vision loss
d. Numbing of extremities, constipation and hair loss

Question No.4. What is the best way to avoid being infected with WNV?

a.Prevent sunburns
b.Prevent mosquito bites
c.Do not eat undercooked poultry
d.Avoid intimate physical contact with another person who is infected.

Question No.5. What is the most likely way for a human to be infected with WNV?

a. Handling a dead bird
b. Drinking Dirty water
c. A mosquito bite
d. Close contact with an infected person.

Question No.6. What is the typical path of WNV infection to humans?

a. Birds -- Mosquitoes -- Humans
b. Mosquitoes -- Birds -- Humans
c. Dirty Water -- Mosquitoes -- Humans
d. Mosquitos -- Humans -- Humans

Question No.7. How soon do infected people get sick after being bitten?

a. Within a few hours
b. Between 3 and 14 days
c. After a month or two
d. After six months

Question No.8. At what age do people become more susceptible to severe illness when infected with the WNV?

a. Infants
b. 20 years
c. 40 year
d. 50 years
The West Nile Virus > Chapter 1
Page Last Modified On: August 15, 2021, 08:06 AM