Eighty percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus develop no or few symptoms, while 20 percent develop mild symptoms such as headache, joint pain, fever, skin rash and swollen lymph glands, Fischer said.
Less than 1 percent will develop neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis. People at greater risk for serious illness are those who are older than 50 and who have certain underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure, the CDC said.
Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, loss of vision, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, according to the CDC.
In more extreme cases, the virus can lead to serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues), or death. People older than 50 and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness, according to the CDC.
Fischer said that "children can certainly be infected with West Nile virus but are less likely to get serious neurological illness."
There are no specific treatments for West Nile virus, which was first identified in the United States in 1999.
The greatest risk for infection with West Nile virus typically occurs from June through September, with cases peaking in mid-August. But changes in the weather, the number of infected mosquitoes and human behavior can all influence when and where outbreaks occur, the CDC said.
Although most people with mild cases of West Nile virus will recover on their own, the CDC recommends that anyone who develops symptoms should see their doctor right away.
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