West Nile Virus School Fact Sheet
Where Has It Been And Where Is It Going?
West Nile virus (WNV) is commonly found in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia, and the Middle
East. It was first detected in the United States in 1999, during which
time there was an outbreak in New York.By mid-June of 2002, it had
traveled westward to Texas. Since then, it has been reported in
mosquitoes, birds (such as blue jays and crows), horses, and humans in
Texas. There has also been a continued westward movement of the virus.
What Are The Symptoms Of West Nile Virus?
Most people infected with WNV have no symptoms. A minority develop
meningitis or encephalitis, which can be fatal. Symptoms include fever,
weakness, headache, and altered mental status. Skin rash,
lymphadenopathy, conjunctivitis, abdominal pain, cough, dyspnea, and
diarrhea may also be present.
Can It Be Treated?
There is no specific treatment for WNV infection. In a serious case, a person may have to be
hospitalized and given supportive treatment along with good nursing care.
How Is It Spread?
West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There
is no recorded proof of it being passed from person-to-person,
animal-to-animal, or animal-to-person.
Can Animals Be Infected With WNV?
Yes. However, the only domestic animals that appear to be harmfully
affected by WNV are equines, such as horses. Wild birds can also develop
severe signs of the disease and may die.
How Should Schools Decide On Protocols Pertaining To WNV?
In areas where mosquitoes may be infected, very few mosquitoes will
actually be carriers of the virus. Additionally, only a very small
percent of people bitten by infected mosquitoes will show symptoms of
any disease. The virus is transmitted in multiple species of mosquitoes;
depending on the species, some mosquitoes feed at night while others
feed during the day. Decisions on protocols for addressing prevention of
WNV in school children and employees fall under local jurisdiction;
that is to say, school districts must set their own policies.
How Can Chances Of Getting Infected Be Reduced?
A few general prevention tips for WNV and other types of mosquito-borne encephalitis include:
1. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
2. Apply insect repellents, such as products containing DEET, sparingly to exposed skin.
3. Spray clothing with insect repellents, as mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing.
4. Whenever you use an insect repellent, read and follow the directions for use that are printed on
the product label.
5. It does not appear that a person can get WNV from handling live or dead infected birds.
However, use gloves or double plastic bags when handling any dead animals, including birds.
6. Make sure any windows left open have screens on them; make sure the screens are in good
7. To minimize mosquito breeding sites, remove containers of any size that would allow water to
collect or change the water in them daily. Cover trash cans and remove trash.
What Is The Prevalence Of WNV In My Region Of Texas?
Information regarding West Nile virus activity in various areas of Texas can be obtained at:
Should Schools Administer Repellents?
It is a school district decision of whether or not to take on this
responsibility. As with all over-the counter products, schools must
require written request from parents to administer the medicine and must
receive the medicine in its original container. Due to the possible
side effects and allergic reactions, schools should determine their
policy carefully. Another option is for parents to apply insect
repellent on their children before they go to school. One application of
a product containing DEET can last 6 to 12 hours. Parents are advised
to contact their family physician about the possibilities of any adverse
reactions to such products. However, the Environmental Protection
Agency has concluded that, as long as consumers follow label directions
and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not
present a health concern since exposure to DEET is expected to be brief.
If school personnel decide to allow parents to send insect repellents with their children to school, keep the following in mind:
. Repellents may bother the eyes and mouth, so do not apply them to the hands of young children.
.Do not allow young children to apply repellents.
.Do not apply products containing DEET on children less than 2 years of age
Should The School Campus Be Sprayed For Mosquito Control?
Contact your city or county health department with inquiries about mosquito control, such as spraying.
If you do not have a city or county health department in your area, contact a local official for