In May of 2021, there were a total of 664 cases of West Nile in the United States, and over 75% of those cases were severe, involving disease extending to the nervous system and brain.
The West Nile virus is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites and usually resolves with treatment. But it has the potential to cause health complications. This is why a West Nile virus test is so important.
When you order a West Nile virus lab test, you take control of your health.
Keep reading this guide to find everything you need to know about the West Nile virus and the West Nile virus lab test.
What is the West Nile Virus
The West Nile virus is a virus first identified in Uganda in 1937. In 1953, it was identified in birds, mainly crows in the Nile region.
Since that time, outbreaks have occurred in Greece, Russia, Israel, Romania, and anywhere along the main migratory path for birds. In 1999, a large outbreak in the United States highlighted the importance of regulating animal importation.
Risk factors for West Nile Virus
Your most significant risk factor for getting the West Nile virus is the time of the year. Most cases in the US occur between June and September and happen in 48 states, except for Alaska and Hawaii.
If you have the West Nile virus, your risk of developing a severe infection is low. Less than 1% of people who get the West Nile virus become severely ill, but most recover completely.
You're more likely to develop a severe infection from West Nile if you are:
- An older age
- You have medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease
Causes of West Nile Virus
West Nile virus typically spreads to humans and animals from infected mosquitos. Mosquitos become infected after biting birds that have the West Nile virus.
But it's important to know you can't get infected if you're in close contact with an infected person or animal. West Nile appears in Africa, Asia, Europe, Canada, and the US.
Signs and Symptoms of West Nile Virus
Many people infected with West Nile Virus don't show any symptoms, but almost 20% will develop a mild infection. Symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Skin rash
For less than 1% of people, the West Nile virus can cause a severe nervous system infection, including brain and spinal cord inflammation. Symptoms of a serious infection include:
- Severe headache
- High fever
- Stiff neck
- Confusion and disorientation
- Paralysis or muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling
- Loss of vision
West Nile virus symptoms typically last 2 to 3 days, but symptoms of a more severe infection can last for months. Serious symptoms like muscle weakness or vision loss can become permanent.
West Nile Virus Diagnosis
If you have symptoms of a headache, stiff neck, fever, or muscle weakness, then you need to see a doctor right away.
If you think you may have been exposed and your symptoms are mild, then make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor will ask you questions like:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Have your symptoms been ongoing or on and off?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything improve your symptoms?
- Does anything make them worse?
In addition to a physical exam, your doctor can confirm you have the West Nile virus or a West Nile-related illness by first ordering lab tests that measure the levels of your antibodies.
If your doctor suspects you have a brain or spine infection, they'll order a spinal tap to analyze the fluid around your brain and spinal cord for an infection.
In other cases, your doctor may also order an MRI to detect brain inflammation and an EEG to measure your brain's activity.
Lab Testing For West Nile Virus
If you're wondering, how can you test for the West Nile virus? Well, the good news is the tests for West Nile are simple and easy.
The West Nile virus antibody (IgG, IgM) Serum test is a common West Nile lab test. Antibodies appear in your immune system as a response to the infection. The antibody test detects for antibodies your body develops while fighting the West Nile Virus.
For more immediate results, you can take a West Nile Virus RNA Real-Time PCR test. A PCR test involves taking a sample of tissue, typically a nasal swab, early in the course of your illness. A positive result can confirm an infection.
Other tests include a Donor West Nile Virus test. The donor test screens the blood, tissues, and tissue products of potential donors for the West Nile virus.
FAQS About West Nile Virus
Are you wondering if all mosquitoes transmit this disease? The answer is most mosquitos transmit West Nile, but not all of them. Approximately 30 different species of mosquitos across the United States carry the virus.
Can your pets become infected? Pets do sometimes get the West Nile Virus but usually don't show signs of illness. Dogs and cats do not easily catch West Nile, but horses are much more susceptible.
How can you protect yourself and your family from getting the West Nile virus? The best way towards prevention is to reduce the mosquito population around your home and property by:
- Reduce the amount of standing water
- Throw away used tires as they can be a mosquito breeding ground
- Make sure your gutters drain properly
- Turn over small pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
- Keep water off any pool covers
- Landscape your property in a way that eliminates the pooling of water
West Nile Virus Test with Ulta Lab Tests
Ulta Lab Tests offers highly accurate and reliable tests that allow you to make the best decisions about your health. Here are a few fantastic things you'll love about Ulta Lab Tests:
- Secure and confidential results
- No need for health insurance
- No need for a physician's referral
- Affordable pricing
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
If you order your West Nile virus tests today, you'll get secure results online in 24 to 48 hours in most cases.
Being aware of what's going on in your body is the first step. Take control of your health and shop Ulta Lab Tests today!