West Nile Virus Home > West Nile Virus Treatment

There is currently no treatment for West Nile that can kill the virus. In mild cases, treatment mainly includes rest and drinking plenty of fluids. In severe cases, treatment can involve intravenous (IV) fluids and breathing assistance from a ventilator.

What Are Treatments for West Nile Virus?

Within three to fourteen days after a person is infected with the West Nile virus (see West Nile Virus Transmission), he or she may develop West Nile virus symptoms. There is currently no treatment that can kill the West Nile virus. Because West Nile is caused by a virus, antibiotics or other medications for West Nile virus are not effective. Therefore, treatment for West Nile focuses on providing relief from symptoms as the body fights the West Nile virus. This is called supportive care.

West Nile Virus Treatment in Mild Cases

People who experience mild West Nile virus symptoms (known as West Nile fever) can have symptoms for a couple of days or up to several weeks. During this time, treatment can include:
  • Resting in bed
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Taking medication, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, to relieve fever and discomfort.

Treatment of West Nile Virus in Severe Cases

Occasionally, an infected person may develop more severe disease, such as West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis, or West Nile meningoencephalitis. Encephalitis refers to an inflammation of the brain. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord. Meningoencephalitis refers to inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it.
When more severe symptoms of West Nile virus (such as unusually severe headaches or confusion) occur, medical attention is necessary immediately.
In these cases, treatment for West Nile virus usually requires hospitalization for intensive supportive care. This supportive care can include:
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Medications to control seizures, nausea, vomiting, or brain swelling
  • Breathing support from a ventilator
  • Prevention of secondary infections (pneumonia, urinary tract infection, etc.)
  • Good nursing care.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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