What Is the Treatment for West Nile Virus?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites.
West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites.

Many who contract West Nile virus, a disease transmitted by a mosquito bite, do not require treatment, though some need hospital monitoring. Those who contract a mild form of West Nile Virus may not need treatment of any sort, however, and symptoms often go away within several days. These people may benefit from using pain relievers for uncomfortable symptoms. Some, however, may develop encephalitis or meningitis, diseases marked by inflammation of the brain or spinal chord membranes. There is no cure for either of these conditions, and many diagnosed with them require hospital supervision to allow their health to stabilize and to prevent other infections.

Severe cases of West Nile virus may require hospitalization.
Severe cases of West Nile virus may require hospitalization.

Treatment for West Nile virus varies with each infected person. Many people who become infected with it never experience symptoms or adverse effects, and as such, do not need treatment. Others may suffer from mild symptoms such as aches, pains, and fever, which can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers. Other symptoms may include swollen lymph glands, nausea, sore throat, and loss of appetite, but they do not usually require hospitalization and often fade within one week.

Because vaccines are available that protect horses from West Nile Virus, doctors are optimistic a vaccine will be created for humans, too.
Because vaccines are available that protect horses from West Nile Virus, doctors are optimistic a vaccine will be created for humans, too.

In contrast, some people contract severe West Nile virus and require hospitalization. In severe cases, a person may be diagnosed with either encephalitis or meningitis as well. These diseases are associated with brain or spinal chord membrane inflammation, brain damage, and even death. Like West Nile virus, these diseases are not caused by bacteria and do not respond to antibiotics. Instead, the treatment for West Nile virus for those with severe cases typically includes hospitalization for monitoring and supportive care.

Although doctors can only treat the symptoms of the West Nile virus, research may eventually reveal a cure.
Although doctors can only treat the symptoms of the West Nile virus, research may eventually reveal a cure.

Although doctors can only treat the symptoms of West Nile virus, research may eventually reveal a cure or more effective treatment options. Vaccine studies may also result in a vaccine that can be used to prevent disease contraction. Some scientists feel particularly optimistic about this possibility, as there is a vaccine effective for use in horses. Additionally, some scientists and medical professionals assert that interferon therapy may prove helpful as a treatment for West Nile virus. It involves using substances made by the immune system as part of the treatment.

Since there is no proven-effective treatment for West Nile virus, prevention may be the key. A person can avoid this disease by taking steps to make his environment less attractive to mosquitoes, such as getting rid of standing water near his home and possibly spraying the area with an outdoor pesticide. Additionally, a person may do well to don long sleeves and pants when he plans to be outdoors in areas highly populated with mosquitoes. He may also spray his exposed skin and clothing with a repellent.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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    • West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites.
      West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites.
    • Severe cases of West Nile virus may require hospitalization.
      Severe cases of West Nile virus may require hospitalization.
    • Because vaccines are available that protect horses from West Nile Virus, doctors are optimistic a vaccine will be created for humans, too.
      Because vaccines are available that protect horses from West Nile Virus, doctors are optimistic a vaccine will be created for humans, too.
    • Although doctors can only treat the symptoms of the West Nile virus, research may eventually reveal a cure.
      Although doctors can only treat the symptoms of the West Nile virus, research may eventually reveal a cure.