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West Nile Virus

Date: 31 May 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous


A 47-year old man from Thrissur in Kerala succumbed to the West Nile Virus. This is the first case of virus death in last 2 years in the state.



The virus was first detected in the state in 2006 and then in Ernakulam in 2011.



  • The West Nile Virus is a single-stranded RNA virus, spread through mosquito bite. It belongs to the Japanese Encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae and flavivirus genus.

  • Birds are the reservoir hosts of the virus. Mosquitoes act as principal vectors for transmission between humans and animals.



  • The virus was first isolated from humans in 1937 in the West Nile district of Uganda. It was detected in birds in the Nile delta region in 1953.

  • West Nile Virus infections occur along major bird migratory routes. It is commonly seen in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and West Asia.


Infection mechanism

  • When mosquitoes bite infected birds, the virus spreads in their blood and later gets into the mosquito’s salivary glands. 

  • When they feed on humans and animals, the virus may be injected into humans and animals, where it can multiply and cause illness.



  • Apart from mosquito bites, the infection can spread from human to human through blood transfusion and from mother to her child.

  • It does not spread through contact with infected humans or animals. It does not spread through eating infected animals, including birds. 



  • Initially, the disease is asymptomatic in 80% of the people. West Nile fever or severe West Nile disease develops in later stages.

  • Symptoms in infected individuals include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, nausea, rash, and swollen glands.



  • Encephalitis, meningitis, paralysis, and even death can occur due to severe illness. One in every 150 infected individuals may develop severe form of disease.

  • Persons with co-morbidities and immuno-compromised persons (such as transplant patients) are vulnerable to the severe infection.



  • Protection from the mosquito bites can prevent occurrence of the disease. Methods include wearing protective clothes.

  • Apart from clothing, reducing breeding sites, covering water storage containers, eliminating puddles and drainage of places can help in reducing mosquito population.

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