Every traveler’s go-to guide for the West Nile Virus

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Are you planning on traveling this summer? Unfortunately, the West Nile Virus has reared its ugly head once more. In addition to being prevalent throughout several states, it appears the disease is gaining traction in Greece. Whether you’re planning to travel domestically this summer or you’re heading to Europe, you need to read our go-to guide for the West Nile Virus.

What is the West Nile Virus?

As a mosquito-borne disease, the West Nile Virus doesn’t always produce symptoms. That means you may be bitten by an infected mosquito, catch the disease, and not know about it. As it depends on mosquitoes to spread to others, you don’t need to worry too much about it affecting anyone else.

When the virus does result in symptoms, you may experience the following:

  • Feeling as though you have the flu
  • Nausea
  • A mild skin rash
  • Being more tired than usual

As you can probably tell, West Nile Virus is quite non-spectacular compared to mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria. Despite this, the media loves to use words such as ‘deadly’ and ‘pandemic’ to spur fear.

With that in mind, most of us don’t need to worry about it. However, if you’re very old, very young, or immunocompromised, you’re at a higher risk of seizures, confusion, and muscle weakness. This is quite typical of many viruses, though. In a minute number of cases, there’s a risk of meningitis developing.

How can you protect yourself against it?

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for West Nile virus. This means you need to take other protective measures to stop mosquitoes in affected areas from biting you.

Your first and best defence should be Deet. As an ingredient that’s found in the most effective bug repellants, its chemical structure prevents insects from detecting your natural scent. As a result, they’re less likely to land on you and bite you.

Aside from Deet, you should wear long and light clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to darker clothing and skin, so aiming for light clothing repels them. To complement this, try to avoid spending too much time outside after dusk. This is the period where mosquitoes are more likely to bite you, which increases your risk of catching West Nile virus.

Try to avoid relying on techniques such as mosquito bands. Most of them feature some Deet or botanicals that are known to keep mosquitoes at bay. As a result, they’ll only provide local protection, which means they’ll cover a small proportion of your arms.

If you’re camping while you travel, ask someone to professionally coat your tent with a repellant. While you’re around the campfire, consider burning citronella candles, as the smell deters all kinds of bugs.

Where is it most commonly found?

West Nile Virus is found throughout several U.S. states. This includes Nevada, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The only state to experience a death so far in 2019 is Arkansas.

One region where it’s particularly common this year is Greece. As such, if you’re visiting mainland Greece and you’re particularly concerned, make sure you up your mosquito repelling game.

For now, this isn’t a condition that’s worth panicking about. But by trying to keep bugs at bay, you’ll save yourself from itching.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.