If your doctor
thinks that you may have West Nile, he or she will ask questions to find out
when you were bitten by a mosquito and what symptoms you have.
you have symptoms of encephalitis, your doctor will test your blood for
antibodies to the virus. If you have these antibodies
in your blood, your doctor will know that you have West Nile. In that case,
your doctor may test your blood 2 weeks later to see if the antibodies are
Your doctor may also do a test called a spinal tap
(lumbar puncture) to look for antibodies in the fluid
that surrounds your brain and spinal cord.
To help find out if you
have encephalitis, you may have an
MRI scan so your doctor can see pictures of your
There is no treatment for West
Nile. Your body just has to fight the infection on its own. If you have a mild
case, you can recover at home. But if West Nile is severe, you may need to stay
in a hospital while you get treatment to help your body fight the illness. You
IV (intravenous) fluids, help with breathing (using a
ventilator), and help preventing other illnesses such as
pneumonia. You also may get medicine to help with pain or fever.
You can contact
your local health department for the latest information on the virus in your
area. It's also a good idea to take steps to lower your risk of getting a
- Use insect repellent when you go outdoors in
the late spring, summer, and early fall.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts
and long pants if you know that you will be in areas with lots of mosquitoes or
where you know West Nile virus has been found.
- Do not leave
puddles or open containers of water near your house, because mosquitoes breed
in standing water.
- Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early
evening when mosquitoes are the most active.
A West Nile virus vaccine is available for horses only. If
you own horses, you may think about getting the vaccine for them. The death
rate from West Nile is much higher in horses than in humans.
Researchers are working to create a vaccine that prevents West Nile virus