Caring for yourself if you have West Nile Virus (WNV)

West Nile virus infection is diagnosed by a blood test which generally does not test positive until a week or more after you have become ill.

Testing will tell you whether or not you have antibodies to West Nile virus. You develop antibodies against West Nile virus as your body fights off the infection. Having antibodies against West Nile means it's unlikely you'll be infected again.

Testing will also rule out other diseases that might have the same symptoms.

Mild to moderate WNV illness improves on its own, and people do not necessarily need to seek medical attention for this infection though they may choose to do so.

If you develop symptoms of severe WNV illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately. Severe WNV illness usually requires hospitalization. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are encouraged to talk to their doctor if they develop symptoms that could be WNV.

What to expect during your illness

  • WNV illness, if it occurs, will appear from 3-14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito
  • Up to 30% of infected people will have West Nile Fever (a flu or mono-like form of the illness). Most people who are infected have slight or no symptoms.
  • 1 in 150 infected people get a very serious form of WNV (encephalitis, meningitis) with fever, fatigue, paralysis, disorientation and tremors
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Treat headaches/muscle pain with non-prescription pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc) according to product directions. It is very important not to exceed the recommended dose.
  • Consult your health care provider if you are not getting sufficient pain relief. Rest to allow adequate time for the body to heal. This will most likely mean time off from work.
  • Recurrences of symptoms and delayed recovery are more likely with insufficient fluid replacement and not enough rest.
  • There is no vaccine or cure for WNV in humans at this time

When to call your health care provider

  • If you are experiencing a severe headache, stiff neck, or a high fever (over 103 degrees)
  • If you have severe pain, confusion, delirium, tremors, convulsions, profound muscle weakness or paralysis
  • If you have 2 or more days of vomiting or cannot keep fluids down.
  • If you have not improved in 3-6 days

Blood donation

If you have been infected with West Nile Virus, do not donate blood or organs until you have recovered

People who have been diagnosed with West Nile virus confirmed by a positive laboratory test should not donate blood for 120 days from the start of their symptoms or their laboratory diagnosis, whichever is later.

All donated blood is tested for active West Nile virus infection.