What is West Nile Virus?
It's one of a group of viruses spread by mosquito bites. Mosquito-borne viruses 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 rarer cases, the virus can affect the brain and spinal cord, and can be fatal.
West Nile virus is cause for awareness-not panic. Learning about the virus and ways to prevent infection is key. There are steps you can take to protect you from West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases too.
How is West Nile virus 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, in a very small number of cases, the virus has been spread through blood transfusions, transplanted organs and breastfeeding, and from mother to child during pregnancy. If you have concerns about these possible modes of transmission, talk with your health-care provider. You cannot get the virus by giving blood.