West Nile Encephalitis: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation
The brain

Your Care Instructions

West Nile encephalitis is an illness that causes inflammation in the brain. It is caused by the West Nile virus. The virus is carried by mosquitoes. Encephalitis can cause confusion, a high fever, and a severe headache. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, and a stiff neck and back. West Nile virus is not spread by touching a person who has the virus. Almost all cases are from mosquito bites. It appears that the virus can be passed through breast milk. Talk to your doctor about this if you are breastfeeding.

Most people with the illness get better after treatment. But you may have some symptoms for several weeks or longer while your body heals.

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 call line 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?

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. 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.
  • Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest. This helps your body heal.
  • Follow your doctor's advice on drinking fluids. Too much fluid sometimes can cause more swelling in the brain.
  • Keep the lights dim if your eyes are sensitive to light.
  • Try to be patient while you heal. 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 call 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 are confused or cannot think clearly.

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

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

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter Q523 in the search box to learn more about "West Nile Encephalitis: Care Instructions".