A 47-year-old man from Kerala recently died due to West Nile Virus. This is said to be the second death due to the vector-borne disease in the state. The state health department has sounded an alert in the wake of the death. West Nile fever, spread by the Culex species of mosquitoes, had earlier claimed a life in Kerala in 2019.
Livemint spoke to Dr Trupti Gilada about what is West Nile Fever and how is it caused. Dr Gilada is Consultant Physician in infectious disease at Mumbai’s Masina Hospital.
What is West Nile Fever and how is it caused?
West Nile Fever is a viral illness caused by West Nile Virus transmitted by a Culex mosquito who has become infected when they feed on infected birds. It is not known to spread by contact with infected humans or animals.
West Nile Fever transmission
It is mainly transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
How does Nile fever impact the human body – signs and symptoms
Almost 80% of the infected people are asymptomatic. The others develop what is called the West Nile fever ( symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, nausea, rash, and swollen glands) or severe West Nile disease in less than 1% (leading to encephalitis, meningitis, paralysis, and even death).
West Nile Fever treatment
It usually turns fatal in persons with co-morbidities and immuno-compromised persons. There is no specific treatment or vaccine.
Prevention of West Nile Fever
- Mosquito control and protecting one-self from mosquito bites is the only preventive modality just like other mosquito borne illnesses like Dengue or Japanese Encephalitis.
- Full length clothing that acts as a barrier to exposure to bites, reducing breeding sites, covering water storage containers, eliminating puddles and drainage of places where water accumulates, eliminating unusable containers where water pools, and controlling garbage in yards and gardens is critical
West Nile Fever scare: Health officials sound alert in Kerala
Amid the fear of Nile Fever, Kerala health department has issued directions to district authorities to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures. “Importance should be given to destroying the mosquito breeding sites everywhere. Individuals should take responsibility and clean their residential areas. Clogged drains, stagnant water should be cleared,” state Health Minister Veena George said in a release.