Symptoms and Transmission

People can become infected when they are bitten by an infected mosquito.

West Nile Virus (WNV) usually circulates within a bird-mosquito cycle. Birds have the virus; mosquitoes bite the birds and become infected. Mosquitoes then bite other animals and birds passing the virus along.

west nile virus cycle image

Can you catch it from someone who is infected?

There is no evidence to suggest that the virus can spread directly from person to person. There is also no evidence that the virus spreads directly from birds to humans.

How would you know if you have it?

Most people who become infected with the virus do not experience symptoms.

For those who do become ill (about 20 per cent) symptoms can occur three to 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito.

The symptoms include mild fever, headache, muscle aches, stiff neck, swollen glands and skin rash.

However, a much smaller number of people, about one in 86, will develop swelling of the brain or encephalitis, and may experience prolonged muscle weakness and neurological problems.

This is a serious illness with recovery taking up to a year.  Death occurs in 3-15 per cent of cases.

Although WNV has been identified in a wide range of ages, people older than 50 or with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop encephalitis.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted above, please contact a qualified health practitioner immediately.

Is there a cure?

There is no specific treatment or cure for WNV, but the symptoms and complications can be treated. Most people recover on their own.