What is West Nile virus, how is it taken, what are the symptoms and how to defend against it

The West Nile virus is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes. Here’s what you need to know and how to avoid contagion

While the guard against Covid 19 is still high and the vaccine is also being considered against monkeypox, concern is growing for the West Nile virus, in English West Nile virus (WNV), despite having been present in Italy for many years. The alarm bells are sounded by the increase in cases in a few weeks, especially in Veneto and in particular in Padua, where the greatest number of cases and an increase in infections have been recorded in a few days.

West Nile virus what it is

West Nile virus is part of the same group as yellow fever. It is called that because the first time it was isolated, in 1937, in the West Nile district of Uganda, where he had been contracted by a woman who had a very high fever as the main symptom. He affects both humans and animals of different species. In fact it has been found mostly in birdsbut also in the insects like midges and mosquitoes, up to reptiles and amphibians. It is particularly dangerous for the horses, because in equines with clinical symptoms it has a mortality rate between 20 and 57%. This virus has aincubation between 2 and 15 days with exceptions up to 21 days. One in four patients exhibit symptoms, while in most cases those affected by the virus are asymptomatic.

West Nile virus symptoms

The symptoms given by the West Nile virus are those typical of a flu: fever (three to six days), general malaise, headache, loss of appetite, nausea. Muscle pain, eye pain, cough, skin rash, difficulty breathing can then be added. In addition, in some individuals there may be gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting and diarrhea. In the more severe cases encephalitis and meningitis. For some people, particularly the elderly, neurological complications can be triggered (in less than 15% of cases). These are very high fever, mental confusion, disorientation, very marked headache, up to convulsions and coma. Other types of neurological changes rarer such as myelitis, optic neuritis, seizures such as those triggered by epilepsy. In general, in most cases, it heals within a few days, although there are circumstances where it takes months to fully recover.

How do you get West Nile Virus

The main vector of transmission of the West Nile Virus is represented by mosquitoes, while the birds are the first reservoir of this virus, the most infected and are also those who “make it travel” with their migrations. When mosquitoes bite birds, they remove infected blood and thus become infected themselves and can infect their next “prey”, which can also be a human. The virus has also been found in several species of ticks, but these are not important vectors of the WNV. It also appears that humans do not develop enough viral concentrations to transmit the disease to mosquitoes.

Cases of West Nile virus in Italy

The worst year in Italy was 2018, when 552 cases were recorded in November and there were 40 deaths due to this virus which has been present in our country for many years, especially in Emilia-Romagna and Venetobut since 2008 there have also been cases in Lombardy. In that same year, in September, the first case of neuroinvasive West Nile fever was recorded in Italy. It has been in force since 2008 an ordinance of the Ministry of Health with an extraordinary surveillance plan of West Nile Disease. The virus is in fact endemic in our country and its spread is limited by the plan that also involves the Regions, zooprophylactic institutes and laboratories that deal with examining patients who have symptoms referable to the West Nile virus.

What is happening in Veneto

In this summer 2022 the most serious situation is occurring in Veneto and in particular in the Padua area, where 49 cases have been ascertained in just over 20 days. The Hospital – University of Padua begins to feel the pressure in dealing with this new emergency, in fact at the moment there are more hospitalized for WNV than for Covid. There are 12 hospitalized people aged between 30 and 80 years. The hospital rescued 19 patients, some were discharged because they did not need assistance. The most serious, however, in addition to flu symptoms, also manifested neurological phenomena. To cure the disease triggered by this virus there are no specific treatmentsdrugs are usually used to keep effects on the central nervous system at bay. Annamaria Cattelan, director of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Padua Hospitalhe recommended: “It is best not to postpone the arrival at the hospital, in case you have severe fever with headache, nausea, vomiting, or confusion. The disease also affects young people, but older people are the ones most at risk, hence the great elders. Vaccines are being studied, which could be very useful, but at the moment we are based on prevention. “In fact at the moment there are no vaccines for menbut they exist for horses and have been launched for many years, since 2009.

How to prevent WNV infection

Prevention is also very important in the case of the West Nile virus. Since it is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, it is fine protect yourself from them and prevent them from reproducing. Yes, therefore, to the use of skin repellents And clothes that cover the body well. We must try to stay as much as possible in environments protected from mosquitoes and possibly, as explained by the Hospital of Paduawith i conditioners. Is critical furthermore avoid the formation of stagnant water which allows mosquitoes to proliferate. Therefore it is recommended to empty the saucers every day and also any other container in which there may be water stagnation, you must be especially careful when it rains, covering everything that can collect water. If you have tubs or fountains, introduce gods fish to reclaim them. It is also good to cut the grass periodically and check the growth of the vegetation. It is very important to deal with the road trap doors with larvicidal products.

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What is West Nile virus, how is it taken, what are the symptoms and how to defend against it

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