West Nile fever has claimed the life of a 47-year-old man in the Thrissur district of Kerala on Sunday. This is the first death because of the vector-borne infection in the last three years. The news has made people worried about what exactly causes this fever and how deadly it can be. Additionally, this has put health departments on high alert and they have issued directions for people to eliminate mosquito breeding sites to prevent the disease.
First detected in 1937
It is important to mention that West Nile fever is spread by the Culex species of mosquitoes. The fever was first detected in 1937 in Uganda. However, it was in 2011 when the first case of Nile fever was detected in India. A six-year-old boy from Malappuram died due to the infection in 2019.
What is West Nile fever?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Additionally, “the cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall,” the CDC informed.
Mosquitoes become infected while feeding on infected birds. “Infected mosquitoes then spread West Nile virus to people and other animals by biting them. In a very small number of cases, West Nile virus has been spread through, the exposure in a laboratory setting, blood transfusion and organ transplant, mother to baby, during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding,” the CDC notification explained.
Symptoms of West Nile fever
Series of a severe bout of illness including high fever
“Severe illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk for severe illness if they are infected (1 in 50 people). People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk,” CDC noted.
According to CDC, it may take several weeks or months for a person to recover fully from severe illness. Some effects to the central nervous system might be permanent. About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.
Strangely enough, most people do not show any symptoms. CDC said, “most people (8 out of 10) infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.
Are there any treatments available currently?
Unfortunately, so far, there are no vaccines or specific medicines available for those suffering from the West Nile virus infection.
While over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms, it is important to note that in severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized. Patients would require “supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care,” CDC noted.