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What Is the Treatment for West Nile Virus?

Nicole Madison
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

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.

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 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.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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