West Nile fever in Kerala: Precautions, causes, symptoms, treatment and more

As per reports, there are no specific antiviral treatments for West Nile fever. Photo: iStock/Deepak Sethi

West Nile fever, a viral infection transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, was confirmed recently in Thrissur, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts of Kerala. The state's health minister asked people to stay vigilant by taking steps to destroy mosquito breeding grounds. The virus, named after Uganda's West Nile region was discovered in 1937 and it can cause severe neurological illnesses in some patients.
Let's understand what causes the illness, how to treat it and take precautions:

What causes the fever? 
Mosquitoes that commonly feed on birds can get infected by the West Nile virus and transmit it to humans through a bite. The virus spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. There are also cases where the virus got transmitted through organ transplantation, from mother to fetus during pregnancy, blood donation and more. 
Symptoms of West Nile fever
Within 14 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito, a person can develop fever, body aches, fatigue, headache, joint pains, swollen lymph glands, rashes on the skin, nausea and vomiting, which are some of the common symptoms of the fever. At the same time, it can differ from one person to another. Interestingly, a majority of infected people might not even develop any symptom. Brain inflammation or encephalitis, severe headache and fever aka meningitis can also be a symptom of West Nile fever. 

How to treat the disease?
There are no specific antiviral treatments for West Nile fever. Managing symptoms through rest, hydration, pain, fever relief medications and staying away from mosquito bites constitute West Nile fever treatment. At the same time, affected persons should avoid self-medication and follow the dosage of medications prescribed by your health provider. Also, if the patient has neurological complications, she might need advanced care and monitoring.

Precautions to be taken
One can reduce the risk of West Nile virus infection by taking the right precautions. Take steps to avoid mosquito bites using insect repellents and covering your body properly with full-sleeve clothing. It is also important to cover stagnant water bodies on your premises to avoid mosquito breeding.

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