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West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus (WNV) is most commonly contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito, though there are a few other rare ways of contracting the disease including transfusions, transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.


What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of WNV can be mild to severe. In fact, in almost 80% of people, there are no symptoms at all! There can be mild symptoms in about 20% of people that include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. These can last from a few days to several weeks. In 1% of the population, West Nile causes serious illness with symptoms such as high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms can hang around for weeks and the neurological effects may be permanent. It can take 3-14 days after the bite to become sick.

How Can I Lessen My Risk of Exposure?
One of the best ways to prevent WNV is to avoid being bit by a mosquito. Do not go outside when mosquitoes are most active (at sunrise and sunset). If you do need to be outdoors, use long sleeved shirts, pants and a repellant. Essential oils are an excellent way to repel mosquitoes. Try mixing together 15 drops each of lavender, citronella, eucalyptus, and pennyroyal with 1 oz of almond or olive oil. This mixture can be applied directly to skin or clothing to keep insects from biting.  You will have to repeat the application frequently for best results. You can also keep the inside of your home mosquito-free by ensuring screens are in good repair and leaving doors and windows without screens closed. In the yard, empty containers to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes like to breed.

Who is Most Vulnerable?
According to the CDC, “people over the age of 50 are at higher risk and are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick. These folks should take special care to avoid mosquito bites”.

Mainstream Treatment
As with many viruses, there is no specific treatment for West Nile in the mainstream medical approach. Mild cases will clear on their own and rarely need medical attention. If it is a severe case, a person may need to have IV fluids, be on a respirator or need 24 hour care. Symptoms such as severe headaches or confusion may indicate a serious situation that requires medical attention.

Naturopathic Approach

From the Naturopathic approach, there are many things to do which may help keep the symptoms at bay and keep WNV from developing into a serious condition. These are basic strategies that are helpful with any virus.

  • Keep your immune system strong, balanced and healthy.
  • Eat a diet rich in whole foods (raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins).
  • Keep yourself hydrated with fresh and clean drinking water.
  • Get sufficient rest at night and manage stress by using stress-relieving strategies.
  • Keep up with your supplement regime.
  • Avoid foods that are packaged, processed and full of preservatives and additives.
  • Avoid coffee, caffeine and sugar.
  • Stay away from your food allergens.
  • Supplements to consider include immune balancers like Elderberry, Ashwagandha and Astragalus. Anit-virals such as olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract, & oregano extract can be helpful. Garlic, ginger and extra Vitamin C can also provide extra immune support.

If you feel like you may have contracted WNV, please call the office so we can determine if you actually have WNV.  Herbs, IV’s, supplements, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and physical medicine can all stimulate and balance the vital force of your body to help reduce symptoms and help you heal faster. Of course, remember the good old fashioned advice our moms and grandmothers gave us: rest, fluids and homemade soup!


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  • Steele, S. (1995). Summer’s sting. Maclean’s, 108(26), 46.
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