West Nile Virus - FAQs
What is West Nile Virus?
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a potentially serious mosquito-borne virus. WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. It is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on the blood of infected birds. It was first identified in the United States in the late summer of 1999.
- How do people get infected with West Nile Virus?
Most people become infected with West Nile Virus from the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected when it feeds on the blood of a bird that is infected with the virus. The mosquito then becomes capable of passing the virus to people and animals by biting them.
In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
People can not get West Nile Virus by touching or kissing someone who is infected, or from being around a health care worker who has treated an infected person. Likewise, the virus can not pass from infected animals (i.e., horses, birds, pets, etc.) to people. For more information on how West Nile Virus can spread, visit the following page: West Nile Virus Infection
- Who is at risk for getting West Nile Virus?
People who live or work in areas where active cases of West Nile Virus have been identified are at risk of infection. That is why it is so important to avoid mosquito bites, especially during times of high virus activity.
Most people infected with West Nile Virus have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. People over the age of 50 and those with weaker immune systems and chronic diseases are at greater risk for serious health effects.
- When is the risk of becoming infected with West Nile Virus greatest?
The risk of becoming infected is greatest during mosquito season. This can start as early as mid-April and last until September or October.
- What can people do to reduce their risk of West Nile Virus infection?
The best way you can protect yourself and your family from West Nile virus is by minimizing your exposure to mosquitoes and by eliminating mosquito habitats around your home and vacation property. For more information, visit this page: West Nile Virus Prevention