Facts about West Nile Virus

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In light of the recent outbreaks of the West Nile virus throughout the country, FEMA Safety, Health and Medical Readiness Division would to provide awareness to all FEMA employees on West Nile virus (WNV).

WNV is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.  Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds that have high levels of WNV in their blood. WNV is not transmitted from person to person and there is no evidence that handling live or dead infected birds can infect a person. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) last updated report as of August 14 states, thus far in 2012, 43 states have reported WNV infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes.

The best prevention of WNV is to avoid mosquito bites. There is no specific treatment for WNV infection or vaccine to prevent it. Medical care should be sought as soon as possible for persons who have symptoms suggesting severe illness. Most WNV infected humans have no symptoms. Less than one percent of infected people develop more severe illness that includes meningitis or encephalitis. The symptoms of these illnesses can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

To avoid mosquito bites, you can:

  • Limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay eggs by eliminating standing water sources from around your home.
  • Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
  • Use repellents containing permethrin or 35 percent DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) on both your exposed skin and thin clothing. (Avoid contact in your eyes and mouth)

Utilizing these measures will help you to reduce your risk of coming into contact with West Nile virus. Also remember CDC states, “Human illness from West Nile virus is rare, even in areas where the virus has been reported. The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low.”

This information was provided by CDC and Federal Occupational Health. For more information on WNV you can visit: West Nile FOH.DHHS.gov or CDC.gov.

Questions: FEMA-Safety-Health-and-Medical-Readiness@fema.dhs.gov, 202- 646-4213/Paula Presley {CTR}, 202-646-4213

Last Updated: 
10/03/2013 - 10:28