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West Nile Virus Questions Answered

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3. How is West Nile virus treated?

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection. More severe cases require intensive hospital care.

4. What are the risks of West Nile virus infection for pregnant women?

There have been a few miscarriages among women infected during pregnancy, but it's not clear whether the virus played a role. Most women known to have been infected with West Nile virus during pregnancy have given birth to normal, uninfected babies.

While pregnant women appear not to be at particularly high risk from West Nile infection, uncertainties remain. The CDC advises pregnant and nursing women to take special care to avoid mosquito bites.

5. Should I continue breastfeeding if I have symptoms of West Nile virus?

At least one woman appears to have passed West Nile virus to her child during breastfeeding. This appears to happen only rarely.

The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the potential risk of West Nile infection to an infant.

6. What are the chances of dying from West Nile virus infection?

The odds of getting the most severe forms of West Nile disease are about one in 150. The overall death rate in severe disease is about 10%. That makes the overall odds of dying from a West Nile infection about one in 1,500.

These odds aren't the same for everyone. People over age 50, especially those who are elderly, are more likely to suffer severe consequences from West Nile infection.

7. How does West Nile virus actually cause severe illness and death in humans?

West Nile virus causes severe disease when it crosses the blood/brain barrier and infects the brain and spinal cord. The virus disturbs normal brain function -- including disruption of the nerve impulses needed for breathing -- which can be fatal.

8. Should people avoid donating blood or getting blood transfusions or organ transplants?

Blood is lifesaving and often in short supply. Donating blood is safe, and we encourage blood donation now and in the future. Approximately 4.5 million persons receive blood or blood products annually. Although persons needing blood transfusions or organ transplants should be aware of the risk for WNV infection, the benefits of receiving needed transfusions or transplants outweigh the potential risk for WNV infection.

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