West Nile Virus Watch Information


Encephalitis - An inflammation of the brain

Causes, incidence and risk factors - Encephalitis is most often caused by a viral infection due to insect bites, food or drink, or skin contact.

Once the virus has entered the bloodstream, it can localise in the brain causing inflammation of the brain cells and surrounding membranes. White blood cells invade the brain tissue as they try to fight off the infection. The brain tissue swells and can cause destruction of nerve cells, bleeding within the brain, and brain damage. Encephalitis is uncommon. It affects about 1,500 people per year in the US.

a sudden fever
a headache
light hurts the eyes (photophobia)
a stiff neck and back (occasionally)
confusion, disorientation
clumsiness, unsteady gait
irritability or poor temper control

Emergency symptoms
loss of consciousness
poor responsiveness, stupor, coma
muscle weakness or paralysis
sudden severe dementia
memory loss (amnesia), impaired short-term memory or impaired long-term memory
little or no observable change in mood, or mood is inappropriate for the situation
diminished interest in daily activities
inflexibility, self-centredness, indecisiveness, or withdrawal from social interaction
impaired judgment

Prevention - Public health measures to control mosquitoes (a mosquito bite can transmit some viruses) can reduce the incidence of some types of encephalitis. Animal vaccination is important to prevent encephalitis that occurs because of the rabies virus.

Protection from mosquito bites
wear long sleeves and long pants in a mosquito-infested area
use mosquito repellent containing DEET (follow label instructions carefully)
limit outdoor activities at dawn, dusk, and early evening, when mosquitoes are most active
repair holes in door and window screens
eliminate standing water in your yard, as mosquitoes will lay eggs there (tyres, flowerpots, pet dishes, puddles, and bird baths are favourite nesting grounds)
keep your swimming pool aerated, and consider purchasing mosquito-eating fish for your pond
keep your gutters clean to prevent standing water

article courtesy of Trinidad Express, September 5 , 2000

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