RevolutionHealth.com Launches West Nile Watch: Details Key Symptoms, Methods of Transmission, When to Seek Medical Attention

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Halfway through West Nile season, more than 180 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in 22 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming. In 2006, 44 states reported cases of the disease, and experts predict a rise in cases due to recent sustained hot weather in parts of the U.S. To help educate people concerned about the signs and effects of West Nile virus, RevolutionHealth.com has launched West Nile Watch, an online resource for those who want to learn more about the virus.

It's important to be aware of the threat and know the signs of West Nile in case you or someone close to you is stricken.

    West Nile virus is spread from birds to humans by several species of mosquito. The virus, which got its name from the place where it was first isolated in 1937, has an incubation period of five to 15 days. Once in the bloodstream, the virus multiplies and spreads, and if it reaches the brain, the result is encephalitis - an inflammation of the brain that can affect the entire nervous system. Although rare, encephalitis is the most serious complication associated with the virus. The long term effects of the virus after a person recovers from the symptoms are unknown. At least one study suggests that persistent movement disorders and cognitive complaints may occur in people who have had the virus.

While West Nile virus symptoms vary and the disease can be asymptomatic (no symptoms), the majority of people who experience symptoms describe a flu-like illness that lasts a few days, including:

-- Fever

-- Headache

-- Tiredness

-- Body aches

-- Occasionally, a skin rash on the trunk of the body

-- More rarely, paralysis and swollen glands.

"If you live in an area with virus activity and you spend time outdoors, you are at risk for West Nile, especially the elderly," said Dr. Val Jones, Senior Medical Director of Revolution Health. "It's important to be aware of the threat and know the signs of West Nile in case you or someone close to you is stricken."

West Nile virus is not often transmitted via a single mosquito bite, but via multiple bites from infected mosquitoes. There have been cases of the virus being transmitted through the breast milk of infected moms, so it's important for pregnant and nursing mothers to be especially careful to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes if at all possible.

If you think you are exhibiting symptoms and have mosquito bites, go to your doctor who can conduct a blood test to determine whether infection has occurred. For a severe case of the virus, your doctor may prescribe supportive therapy, such as hospitalization, intravenous fluids and respiratory support. Antibiotics are not effective because a virus, not bacteria, causes West Nile disease.

"Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for West Nile virus, so pay attention to avoiding mosquito bites and stay clear of areas treated with insecticide, since studies show that insecticide used to kill mosquitoes with West Nile may be harmful to people, as well," said Dr. Jones.

There are a number of steps one can take to reduce their risk of contracting the disease, such as:

-- Avoid areas (such as marshes) where mosquito activity is highest;

-- Eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around your home, such as standing water in plant containers, buckets and rain gutters;

-- Avoid going outside during prime feeding time for mosquitoes, dusk, dawn and after it rains;

-- Wear light colored, protective clothing when outside;

-- Avoid wearing sweet smelling perfumes, as they can attract mosquitoes; and

-- Use insect repellent with DEET.

Dr. Jones is a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist with expertise in obesity and exercise physiology. She attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and also holds a master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. An award-winning medical writer and cartoonist, Dr. Jones worked on several biomedical imaging and vaccine research studies at the Mayo Clinic, and she was also Chief Resident of Rehabilitation Medicine at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan and Principle Investigator of two diabetes and metabolism trials. Dr. Jones founded the Clinical Nutrition and Obesity e-section of the Medscape General Medicine journal and is a member of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Pain Society, American Council on Exercise and American Obesity Association.

About Revolution Health

Revolution Health Group LLC was created by AOL Co-Founder Steve Case to create products and services that empower people by putting them at the center of the health system. The cornerstone of the company is RevolutionHealth.com, a free consumer health and medical web site that marries expert content and online tools with the power of social networking. Revolution Health also offers premium services that enable companies to provide health content and customized online tools to their employees, an insurance marketplace and CarePages (http://www.carepages.com), the leading service that enables communication among family and friends when someone is receiving care. For more information go to http://www.RevolutionHealth.com.

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