Environment & Biodiversity Science & Tech

West Nile Fever Outbreak in Kerala

  • The Kerala government reported the resurgence of West Nile disease cases in Thrissur, Malappuram, and Kozhikode districts.
  • West Nile fever was initially identified in Kerala in 2011, with a fatal case reported in 2019 involving a six-year-old from Malappuram.

What is West Nile Fever?

  • West Nile fever is caused by the West Nile Virus (WNV), which spreads by bites from infected Culex mosquitos.
  • WNV is a mosquito-borne, single-stranded RNA virus.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, it is a flavivirus from the Japanese Encephalitis antigenic complex in the Flaviviridae family.

How is it spread?

  • Infected mosquitoes transmit the virus between humans and animals, particularly birds, which serve as the virus’s reservoir host.
  • Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds, which carry the virus in their bloodstream for a few days.
  • The virus finally enters the mosquito’s salivary glands.
  • During subsequent blood feasts (when mosquitos bite), the virus may be transferred into people and animals, where it can grow and potentially cause sickness.
  • WNV can also spread by blood transfusions, transmission from an infected mother to her child, or laboratory contact to the virus.
  • It is not known to spread through contact with sick people or animals. 

Symptoms of WNV infection:

  • WNV infection causes no symptoms in 80% of cases.
  • The rest get West Nile fever, sometimes known as severe West Nile illness.
  • In 20% of instances, symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, body pains, nausea, rash, and swollen glands.

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