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West Nile Virus

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Image courtesy of Bruce Cropp, Microbiologist, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.
West Nile virus (WNV) - A type strain of flaviviruses West Nile virus e.g. West Nile St. Louis encephalitis, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever, etc. share a common size (40-60nm), symmetry (enveloped, icosahedral nucleocapsid), nucleic acid (RNA approximately 10,000-11,000 bases). WNV has emerged in recent years in regions of Europe and North America, presenting a threat to human, avian, equine, populations as well as the health of other species of animals. The most serious manifestation of WNV infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds.

History: WNV was first isolated from a woman in the West Nile District of Uganda in 1937. The ecology was characterized in Egypt in the 1950s. The virus became recognized as a cause of severe inflammation of the spinal cord and brain in elderly patients during an outbreak in Israel in 1957. Equine disease was first recorded in Egypt and France in the early 1960s. The first recorded appearance of WNV in North America was in 1999, with encephalitis reported in humans and horses.

Geographical Distribution: WNV has been described in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, west and central Asia, Oceania (subtype Kunjin), and most recently, North America. Recent outbreaks of WNV encephalitis in humans have occurred in Algeria in 1994, Romania

Geographical Distribution

Courtesy of the CDC

in 1996-1997, the Czech Republic in 1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1998, Russia in 1999, the United States in 1999-2001, and Israel in 2000. Epizootics of disease in horses occurred in Morocco in 1996, Italy in 1998, the United States in 1999-2001, and France in 2000. In the U.S. through July 2001, WNV has been documented in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, and the District of Columbia.

Transmission: West Nile Virus (WNV) is reported to be transmitted in the US by multiple species of mosquitoes, in addition to the Culex species. The

Transmission Cycle:
Courtesy of the CDC
mosquitoes found positive include species that feed on both avian and mammalian hosts. Recent studies in the lab indicate that WNV can be transmitted from bird-to-bird. This transmission from bird-to-bird, without the intervention of mosquitoes raises new questions about methods of transmission as well as incubation times of the disease.

It is believed that WNV is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. Most researchers believe that you or your child cannot get WNV from a person who has the disease. WNV is not thought to spread by person-to-person contact such as touching, kissing, or caring for someone who is infected.


WNV is primarily a bird disease, and as many as 10,000 crows died from the spreading infections in metropolitan New York in 2000. The deaths of numerous horses in the area also were attributed to the virus, which causes inflammation of brain tissues.

Most people who become infected with WNV from a mosquito bite will not become ill. If they do become ill with WNV, most cases are mild. Symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, often with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe infections may manifest themselves with a headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

This disease is only fatal in 3% to 15% of all cases and the highest fatality rates are in the elderly and those with impaired immune systems. The elderly, young and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable.


Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
Human illness from West Nile virus remains rare in areas where it has been reported, and the chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low.

You can further reduce your chances of getting ill by protecting yourself from mosquito bites. To avoid mosquito bites, eliminate standing water sources from around your home, always wear repellent and long-sleeved clothes when you're outdoors, and stay indoors during peak mosquito hours

Reporting dead birds:
Many people now know that the virus hits many types of birds particularly hard and that dead birds in a neighborhood may mean that mosquitoes carrying the virus are in the area.

Most of the time, the bird's death was not caused by the virus. However, if you see a dead bird, you should tell your local or state health department. They may choose to pick up and test the bird for the virus.

West Nile Fever (West Nile virus) - Online Treatment Advisor

Treatment of West Nile Virus Encephalitis with Intravenous Immunoglobulin
Serological Assays, TaqMan Real-time PCR, RT-PCR, NASBA Reactions.
Sample: Brain Tissue, Cerebrospinal fluid are most suitable during post-mortem exam. Vent, Throat, and blood sample should be submitted for general screening.

Handling: Prior to shipping samples should be stored at 4 C. Samples must be shipped overnight in a transport medium.

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