West Nile Virus Home > West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes, and is commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. The illness that can result from this virus is potentially serious. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure or human vaccine for this virus. The best way to avoid getting it is to prevent mosquito bites.

What Is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus disease (simply known as West Nile virus or WNV) is a potentially serious illness caused by the West Nile virus. Experts believe that this virus is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America; it flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.

Understanding the West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is a flavivirus (transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes) commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. It is closely related to the St. Louis encephalitis virus, which is also found in the United States. The virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses, and some other mammals.
The length of time that the this virus has been in the United States is unknown, but scientists believe the virus has probably been in the eastern United States since the early summer of 1999, or possibly longer.

How Is It Spread?

Most often, the virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. In rare cases, the cause of West Nile virus infection can be from blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, and even mother-to-baby contact during pregnancy (see Cause of West Nile Virus). The virus is not spread through casual contact, such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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