Although children are thought to be at low risk from the West Nile Virus, it is important to know the symptoms if your child gets sick and has recently had a mosquito bite. Remember that many of the symptoms of the West Nile Virus are shared by many of the more common and less serious viral infections that can infection children.
Q. What are the symptoms of West Nile virus (WNV) infection?
A. Surprising to most people, most West Nile virus infections are asymptomtic - they cause no symptoms at all.
About 20 percent of people who become infected with West Nile virus will develop West Nile virus symptoms, including fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, and a skin rash. These symptoms are usually mild and might last a few days or a few weeks.
More rarely, people who get infected with West Nile virus can have more severe disease (also called neuroinvasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) with severe symptoms that can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Although neuroinvasive disease can occur in people of any age, people over age 50 and people with immune system problems are at the highest risk.
Q. What is the incubation period for West Nile disease?
A. It usually takes 3 to 14 days from the time you are bitten by an infected mosquito to when you might develop West Nile virus disease symptoms.
Q. How are West Nile virus infections treated?
A. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or cure for West Nile virus infections.
Q. Does my child need to be tested for West Nile if he is bitten by a mosquito?
A. In general, no. Experts do not recommend routine testing for West Nile virus, even if you have mild symptoms. Testing is usually reserved for those with more severe symptoms.
It is also important to remember that:
- West Nile virus is not contagious and can't be spread through casual contact with other people
- West Nile virus season typically peaks in mid-August and continues though October
- there is no vaccine against West Nile virus (except for horses)
And be sure to take precautions to protect your kids from the West Nile virus, including that they wear insect repellent and protective clothing and that you empty standing water around your home so that mosquitoes can't breed easily.
CDC. West Nile Virus Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factSheet.htmAccessed September 2012.