West Nile Virus

About West Nile Virus

    West Nile Virus is one of a group of viruses spread by mosquito bites.  Mosquito-borne viruses, such as encephalitis and dengue fever, are not new to the U.S.  West Nile Virus is more recent, and is a growing health concern.

    West Nile Virus can cause mild to severe illness.  Most people who get infected do not get sick. Some get a mild, flu-like illness. In rare cases, the virus can affect the brain and spinal chord, and can be fatal.

    West Nile Virus is cause for awareness-NOT panic.  Learning about the  virus and ways to prevent infection is key. Steps you take can help protect you from other mosquito-borne diseases, too.

    How is West Nile Spread?

    Some birds carry the West Nile virus in their blood.  Mosquitoes that bite these birds can become infected with the  virus.

    An infected mosquito can then pass the virus to people. Mosquitoes can also pass it to some animals, such as horses. Ask a veterinarian about the virus and pets. There's no evidence that people get the   virus from birds or other animals.

    The  virus is NOT spread from person to person the way colds are. But, it can spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. And researchers are now looking into its possible spread through blood transfusions, donated organs, and breast  milk. If you have concerns about these possible modes of transmission, talk with your health-care provider. You cannot get the virus from giving blood.

Stop Mosquitoes

    This is the key to stopping West Nile Virus.  Empty sources of standing water. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. Here are some tips:

  • Every 2-3 days, drain water from outside pet dishes, garbage cans, buckets, toys, flower pots, wading pools, pool covers, birdbaths, and other objects that can collect water.

  • Discard any old tires and unused containers.

  • Clean gutters.

  • Drill holes in the  bottom of recycling bins.

  • Properly treat water in large pools and hole ponds. Contact your state's department of health for guidelines.

     Keep mosquitoes off you.

  • When possible, stay inside at dusk, dawn, and other times of heavy mosquito activity.

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Light colored clothing is best.

  • Keep window and door screens repaired.

    Use Insect repellent properly.

  • Use a product with DEET (up to 35-50% DEET for adults, no more than 10% for children).

  • Do not use DEET for children under 2 years of age.

  • Put repellent only on exposed skin and clothes (not near eyes, nose, mouth, or on cuts, irritated skin, or children's hands).

  • Wash exposed skin and clothes after  coming indoors.

     Symptoms of West Nile Virus

     Milder symptoms may include:

  • fever

  • headache

  • body aches

  • rash

  • swollen glands

     See your health care provider to determine if treatment is necessary.

     Severe Symptoms may include:

  • high fever

  • severe headache

  • stiff neck

  • muscle weakness

  • confusion

  • tremors

  • convulsions

  • paralysis

  • coma

Severe cases may require hospitalization.

Additional Resources

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1-888-246-2675 (English)

1-888-246-2857 (Spanish)

1-866-874-2646 (TTY)


 The National Pesticide Information Center 



What Should I Do If I Find a Suspicious Bird?
    Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in an area. Over 130 species of birds are known to have been infected with West Nile virus, though not all infected birds will die. It's important to remember that birds die from many other causes besides West Nile virus. 

    By reporting dead birds to state and local health departments, you can play an important role in monitoring West Nile virus.

    Morgan County Health Department will test the birds if the bird has been dead for less than 24 hrs and there is no sign of decaying.  The bird is sent to the lab for testing and the results are sent back to the health department.  There is no cost to the consumer.

    If a dead bird is noticed after normal health department hours, the consumer needs to put the bird on ice or refrigerate the bird.

For more information contact the Environmental Health office at the Morgan County Health Department 217.245.5111 #30.