West Nile virus Infection occurs as a result of mosquito bites that transfer the West Nile virus. The West Nile virus generally strikes birds, but may sometimes cause infection in humans. In children, as with infected adults, the virus typically won’t cause obvious sickness, and many infected children show no symptoms at all.
There is a similar condition to West Nile Virus called West Nile fever. West Nile fever has symptoms similar to those of West Nile Virus but it is a less severe condition.
Some children with West Nile Virus fever may experience symptoms like those typical of the flu including high temperature, muscle, joint, and overall body aches, and may have inflammation on their brain or meninges which line the brain. Typically, their condition improves very quickly.
Symptoms of West Nile fever in children are similar to those of influenza, and often consist of:
- high temperature
- throbbing headache
- red painful eyes
- overall body aches
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that once they’re infected, children may become immune and it’s possible they’ll not become ill from the virus again.
West Nile Virus Symptoms in Children
The West Nile virus is typically found in birds, but over the last several years has been discovered in other animals and even humans in every one of the continental United States.
Children cannot contract the West Nile virus from casual contact with infected animals, birds or other people.
Serious West Nile virus symptoms in children include:
- excessive fever
- stiff neck, stiff back, and overall joint pain and body aches (some people can bend their neck)
- extreme throbbing headache
- puzzlement or confusion, behavior issues like behaving strangely or lack of awareness
- convulsions, seizures
- decreased mobility, highlighted by uncontrolled trembling, shaking, body and joint stiffness, with weakened muscles and lack of strength
Children who may have symptoms of West Nile virus should be taken to a doctor without delay. Identifying an infection promptly will help increase a child’s likelihood of recovery.
Treating West Nile Virus Infection in Children
There are no available medications for West Nile Virus infection. Children suffering from West Nile virus fever will find symptoms dissipate on their own. If your child has extreme symptoms of West Nile virus infection, they should be taken to your family doctor or admitted to a hospital immediately. Some children might need to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for close observation.
Protecting Children from West Nile Virus Infection
The best way to protect children from West Nile Virus is to eliminate the chance of mosquito bite. Here are some ideas:
- use bug spray that contains DEET (use it on skin and clothes)
- on infants younger than two months old, use bug spray with no more than 30% DEET
- avoid spraying DEET on hands of small children or infants that could rub the spray on eyes or in their mouth
- avoid staying outdoors, particularly at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes feed
- avoid functions with standing water which are more likely to have mosquitoes present
- dress in long-sleeved tops, long pants, or wear a mosquito blocking suit to keep mosquitoes off your skin
- remove any standing water close to the house or areas where children will play
- remove or drain containers which collect water, including wheelbarrows, birdfeeders, buckets, or cans
- change water in hummingbird feeders occasionally
- Fix potholes, or other low areas where stagnant water may sit
- spray irrigation ponds and around other small bodies of water including rain gutters or ditches.
- optionally, circulate water to prevent it from becoming stagnant and keep mosquitoes from laying eggs
Please be careful when using strong chemicals like DEET, as small animals and children can be seriously affected if the chemicals are ingested in any way.