UT University Health Services

West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus (WNV) and how do you get it?

WNV occurs most in summer and into the fall. It is caused by a virus, which is transmitted to people by bites from mosquitoes that have fed previously on birds infected with WNV. Rarely, it is transmitted via organ transplants and blood transfusions, during pregnancy from mother to child and during breastfeeding.

People usually get sick a few days to two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

West Nile Virus Symptoms

About 80% of infected people have no symptoms. Around 20% have mild to moderate symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • nausea/vomiting
  • headaches
  • sometimes, swollen lymph nodes (glands)
  • a rash on the back, chest and/or stomach
  • body aches

Less than 1% develop additional, more serious symptoms that can include the following, some of which can be permanent or cause death. Serious illness and deaths caused by WNV most frequently occur in people over age 50.

  • a stiff neck
  • tremors
  • loss of vision
  • muscle weakness, numbness and/or paralysis
  • convulsions

Nurse Advice Line
If you're a UT student and are ill or injured, you can call the UHS UHS Nurse Advice Line any day of the year to get guidance about self-care or whether and how soon you need to be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
(512) 475-6877 (NURS)

West Nile Virus Treatment

There is no treatment specific for WNV. For mild or moderate cases, treatment focuses on alleviation of symptoms, much like one would treat the flu or other viral illnesses. People with more serious symptoms usually need to be hospitalized to get supportive treatment which can include IV therapy and help with breathing.

West Nile Virus Prevention

Implement the "Four Ds." Dress - Reduce skin exposure by wearing long pants, long sleeves, etc.

Dusk and Dawn - Close doors and windows and ensure that screens fit tightly. Mosquitoes are out more during this time.

DEET - Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Find information on maximizing protection from insect repellent and its safe use.

Drain - Eliminate standing water around your house or apartment, regardless of how small the amount (e.g. flower pots, cans, tires, tarps or any impervious material that catches and holds water, etc.). Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.

Additional Resources

Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services

Texas Department of State Health Services: "West Nile Virus in Texas"

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, "West Nile Virus - What You Need to Know"
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