What You Need to Know About West Nile Virus

young girlAs a parent, you have probably heard of the West Nile virus — a type of infection spread to humans through mosquito bites. West Nile is an arbovirus, a virus that can cause infections of the central nervous system, inflammation of the joints and liver infections. It is the most common arbovirus in the United States.

Symptoms of West Nile

Most children who get West Nile have minor symptoms or none at all. However, approximately one in five children with the virus develops flu-like symptoms that last a few days, including:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting

In less than 1 percent of cases, children with the virus become severely ill with the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe headaches
  • Convulsions
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness

Preventing West Nile

Even though it is unlikely that your child will become seriously ill if she gets West Nile, it is important to take measures to prevent the virus:

  • Use insect repellent. Be sure to look at the label to find out how much DEET the repellent contains. The higher the concentration of DEET, the more effective the product will be and the longer it will last. However, high concentrations of DEET can be harmful to children. To be safe, do not use any repellents that have a DEET concentration higher than 30 percent, and do not use any products that contain DEET on children younger than 2 months of age.
  • Spray the repellent on your child's clothes and exposed skin, avoiding his face and ears. Don't use any more than necessary. Be sure to give your child a shower at the end of the day to wash off any repellent residue. Also, wash any clothing treated with the repellent before your child wears it again.
  • Mosquitos often gather around birdbaths, pet water bowls, small puddles and other sources of standing water. Keep your child away from these areas when playing.
  • Mosquitos bite humans most often at dusk, at dawn and in the early evening. Limit your child's outdoor playtime during peak mosquito-biting hours.
  • If you have screens on your windows and doors, make sure they are in good shape and repair any holes.

If your child has symptoms of West Nile, take him to his pediatrician as soon as possible.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD

Categories: Weekly Health Tips, Mosquito-borne Illnesses

Published on in Health Tip of the Week