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West Nile Virus: Care Instructions


West Nile virus is an infection spread to humans by mosquitoes. Most people who get the virus don't get sick. But when symptoms do occur, they appear 2 to 14 days after the bite and include fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes a skin rash. It's usually a mild illness. In rare cases, West Nile virus may affect the brain, causing serious illness that can lead to long-lasting problems.

There is usually no specific treatment for the West Nile virus. Your body has to fight the infection on its own. In mild cases of West Nile, symptoms usually last for 3 to 6 days, and you can recover at home. If you get a more severe case of West Nile, symptoms can last for weeks or months, and you may need to stay in the hospital so you can get medicine to help you recover.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you have symptoms, take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Get plenty of rest. You may feel well enough to continue your normal activities.
  • Try to be patient while you are recovering. It may take several weeks or months to recover fully.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You have a stiff neck.
  • You are nauseated or are vomiting.
  • You have trouble thinking or concentrating.
  • You become confused or disoriented.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You notice new numbness or weakness.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.