West Nile Virus Infections More Common Than Thought Before
An investigation performed then led to the discovery that one in five patients developed West Nile symptoms, like fever, headache, rash and muscle and joint pain. Although most of the people recover easily after the West Nile virus infection, one percent of them experience acute symptoms when the virus invades the brain and spinal cord, causing potentially fatal inflammation and swelling. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declare that about 80 percent of the people infected actually do not show any symptoms at all, but a recent study made on 576 American blood donors whose blood tested positive for genetic material from the West Nile virus, meaning that they have been recently infected showed that about half of them experienced at least one symptom of the infection within two weeks of their donation.
Senior researcher Dr. Susan L. Stramer, executive scientific officer for the American Red Cross, says that this study demonstrates that the West Nile virus infections are more common than they were previously thought to be and the patients can develop a wide range of mild symptoms, so that they do not consider that they should visit the doctor and check them up. The participants at the study were presented 14 possible symptoms of the infection (fever, headache, rash, various body aches, abdominal pain, “bone pain,” and vomiting or diarrhea) and were asked to name the ones that they have experienced, but almost half of them reported that they did not have fever. More than half of the infected donors reported at least one of the symptoms such as fever, rash and headache, and the researchers found out that women are more likely to experience West Nile symptoms than men. Most of the donors which experienced two or more symptoms sought medical care, but out of 576 infected donors only four people received a diagnosis of West Nile and ended up hospitalized for receiving specialized treatment. Stramer says that there is no specific treatment for the infection with this virus and 98 percent to 99 percent of infections resolve on their own without need for intervention.
Although the West Nile virus infections sometimes goes away on its own, doctors say that people should seek professional help when experiencing fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, or sudden weakness in the limbs because they might suffer from brain and spinal cord involvement. Since 2003 doctors from the donor centers have started screening potential donors for the presence of West Nile genetic material.11