What is West Nile Virus? Where did it come from?
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus. As its name implies, WNV is typically found in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Infection with this virus does not always result in human disease. Studies have shown that only a small percentage of humans infected with the virus will show symptoms of the disease. The general symptoms of West Nile fever, resulting from infection with WNV, range from fever, headache, and rash to meningitis, encephalitis, coma, and death. It was first identified in the United States in August of 1999 in New York State.How do people get West Nile Virus?
People become infected with West Nile Virus from the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by biting birds which have previously been infected with WNV. There is no evidence that a person can get the virus from handling infected birds. What are the symptoms of West Nile Virus?
Most infections are mild. Symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph glands. When more severe illness occurs, symptoms range from fever, rash and headache to meningitis, encephalitis, coma and, on rare occasions, death.Who is at risk for getting West Nile Virus?
Risk among individuals in the general population is very low. However, people over the age of 50 and those with weak immune systems are at greater risk for more serious illness. How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus, nor is there a vaccine. Most people recover completely within two weeks. In more severe infections, intensive supportive therapy may be needed.Can birds or other animals get West Nile Virus?
Crows, gulls, ducks, chickens, hawks, and horses are some examples of animals that are known to harbor West Nile Virus. But only a few species actually show symptoms. Only a few of these animals have enough virus in their blood to allow mosquitoes that feed on them to become infected. Of concern are migrating birds, like crows, which can bring the disease to new areas while mosquitoes are still active. Crows tested for WNV in the northeastern U.S. in 1999 showed a very high fatality rate.
Among other animals, only horses, sheep, mice, hamsters, and lemurs are known to show symptoms. Many different animals, even frogs, are known to harbor the disease. A few of them act as reservoirs of the disease, meaning that they have enough of the virus in their blood to allow mosquitoes to become infected. But most animals do not show symptoms, or resist infection altogether. In a limited number of studies on domestic animals, infected dogs showed minimal to no symptoms.Is there surveillance for West Nile Virus?
When the public identifies dead crows and blue jays to the City of Vineland Department of Health, Public Health Division, the birds are ship to the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services to be tested in their lab. Positive specimens (birds that have the West Nile Virus) are recorded both at the state and county level. To report a dead crow and blue jays.
To report a dead crow and blue jays during business hours, call the City of Vineland Division of Public Health at 794-4131. To report a dead crow after hours or on the weekends, call the City of Vineland Police Department dispatch center at 691-4111.To report adult mosquitoes or larvae (in ponding water) in your neighborhood call the Cumberland County Division of Mosquito Control at 856-453-2197
Jeanne Garbarino, Assistant Chief REHS
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