West Nile Virus: An Update

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West Nile virus (WNV) has been present in the United States for almost 20 years. Since its introduction, it has been responsible for two nationwide epidemics and has infected thousands of people. WNV is primarily transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Humans and horses can become infected with WNV and experience mild to severe disease. However, both humans and horses are considered dead-end hosts because they do not transmit the disease to other mosquitoes or animals. Although there are currently licensed vaccines for horses, there is no WNV vaccine for human use. Additionally, there is no treatment for WNV other than supportive care. Identifying cases of WNV infection can also be difficult because it shares clinical symptoms similar to those of other flaviviruses. In patients who recover from WNV infection, monitoring is required for years after infection because neurological sequelae can persist. Surveillance programs monitor for signs of WNV in the community, confirmed cases of WNV infection in humans and animals, and positive tests for WNV in donated blood. The interprofessional (IP) healthcare team plays an integral role in limiting WNV transmission by participating in surveillance programs and educating patients about preventive strategies to avoid mosquito bites. Preventive strategies to avoid WNV transmission include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using insect repellant, eliminating sources of standing water, and ensuring that screens protect open windows and doors. Through the use of education and surveillance programs, the IP healthcare team can proactively limit the spread of WNV and prevent future epidemics.

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Course Description

West Nile virus (WNV) has been present in the United States for almost 20 years. Since its introduction, it has been responsible for two nationwide epidemics and has infected thousands of people. WNV is primarily transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Humans and horses can become infected with WNV and experience mild to severe disease. However, both humans and horses are considered dead-end hosts because they do not transmit the disease to other mosquitoes or animals. Although there are currently licensed vaccines for horses, there is no WNV vaccine for human use. Additionally, there is no treatment for WNV other than supportive care. Identifying cases of WNV infection can also be difficult because it shares clinical symptoms similar to those of other flaviviruses. In patients who recover from WNV infection, monitoring is required for years after infection because neurological sequelae can persist. Surveillance programs monitor for signs of WNV in the community, confirmed cases of WNV infection in humans and animals, and positive tests for WNV in donated blood. The interprofessional (IP) healthcare team plays an integral role in limiting WNV transmission by participating in surveillance programs and educating patients about preventive strategies to avoid mosquito bites. Preventive strategies to avoid WNV transmission include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using insect repellant, eliminating sources of standing water, and ensuring that screens protect open windows and doors. Through the use of education and surveillance programs, the IP healthcare team can proactively limit the spread of WNV and prevent future epidemics.

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