VERIFY: West Nile Virus, here’s what you need to know

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Fast Facts on West Nile Virus


CDC, Mayo Clinic, Maryland Department of Health, Fairfax County Health Department


A Baltimore-area resident is the first confirmed person with West Nile Virus in Maryland this year. Our Verify team is working to get you the facts on what you need to know about this disease.

First up: where are people contracting the virus?

Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 14 cases of the virus in people, plus the one announced by of a resident in the Baltimore metro area by the Maryland Department of Health. Nine of those cases happened in California.

Most cases of West Nile virus in the United States occur June through September.

Even though the West Nile Virus is usually transmitted to humans and animals through infected mosquitoes, according to the May Clinic, there have been a few cases including organ transplantation and blood transfusion

Next, what should you look out for?

The West Nile Virus disease is classified as non-invasive and neuroinvasive. One in five people who are infected develop a fever with a headache or body aches. Fatigue and weakness can last a few weeks or months, according to the CDC. However most people make a full recovery.

Neuroinvasive cases are more severe, causing inflammation to the brain or meningitis.

The CDC said in neuroinvasive diseases:

• Symptoms of severe illness include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

• Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk.

• Recovery from severe illness might take several weeks or months. Some effects to the central nervous system might be permanent.

• About one out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.

So how life threatening is West Nile Virus? Experts at the Mayo Clinic say less than one percent of people infected become severely ill.

There are certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, hypertension, cancer and diabetes increases your risk of developing a severe infection.

So far during the summer of 2018, no one has died of West Nile Virus.

While no one in dc-metro area has contracted the virus, there are confirmed reports of infected mosquitoes in Fairfax, Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.

The Mayo Clinic gives these tips you can take for preventing West Nile Virus:

  • Unclog roof gutters.
  • Empty unused swimming pools or empty standing water on pool covers.
  • Change water in birdbaths and pet bowls regularly.
  • Remove old tires or unused containers that might hold water and serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors.

To reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:

  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most prevalent, such as at dawn, dusk and early evening.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
  • Apply mosquito repellent containing an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent to your skin and clothing. Choose the concentration based on the hours of protection you need — the higher the percentage (concentration) of the active ingredient, the longer the repellent will work. Follow the directions on the package, paying special attention to recommendations for use on children.
  • When outside, cover your infant’s stroller or playpen with mosquito netting.

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