Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

West Nile Virus - Self Care Guide

Caring for yourself if you have West Nile Virus (WNV)

About the virus

  • West Nile virus causes a disease that is usually transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected mosquito.
  • WNV is transmitted to mosquitoes after they bite infected birds.
  • You cannot catch the virus from another person.
  • West Nile virus infection is diagnosed by a blood test which generally does not test positive until a week or more after you have become ill
  • Infected persons should not donate blood or organs until they have recovered
  • Do not donate blood to determine if you have wWest nNile virus. (for more information on donating blood, go to:

When to call your health care provider

  • If you are experiencing a severe headache, stiff neck, or a high fever (over 103 degrees)
  • If you have severe pain, confusion, delirium, tremors, convulsions, profound muscle weakness or paralysis
  • If you have 2 or more days of vomiting or cannot keep fluids down.
  • If you have not improved in 3-6 days

What to expect during your illness

  • WNV illness, if it occurs, will appear from 3-14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito
  • Up to 30% of infected people will have West Nile Fever (a flu or mono-like form of the illness). Most people who are infected have slight or no symptoms.
  • 1 in 150 of infected people get a very serious form of WNV (encephalitis, meningitis) with fever, fatigue, paralysis, disorientation and tremors
  • There is no vaccine or cure for WNV in humans at this time
  • The best treatment is fluids, rest, fluids, aand pain control

    Drink plenty of fluids including water, juice, tea, and sports drinks, and eat small meals. Treat headaches/muscle pain with non-prescription pain relievers (aspirinacetaminophen, ibuprofinibuprofen, etc) according to product directions. It is very important not to exceed the recommended dose.

    Consult your health care provider if you are not getting sufficient pain relief. Rest to allow adequate time for the body to heal. This will most likely mean time off from work. Recurrences of symptoms and delayed recovery are more likely with insufficient fluid replacement and not enough rest.

How to protect your family

  • Wear an effective mosquito repellant, one that has been approved by the CDC or the EPA as effective against West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. Use repellent only as directed. Only use what you need. If you need to be outside, wear long sleeves and long pants in addition to mosquito repellant. (see chart)
  • Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, plants, fountains, outdoor items and children's playground equipment
  • Avoid spending time outside between dusk and dawn

For more information

Call the toll-free Colorado helpline: 1-877-462-2911

Visit these websites:

The following chart can help you determine the best repellent for your situation. Remember: always read the label. Products containing premethrin are intended to be used on clothing and/or gear, but not to be applied directly to skin.

Product Name: Main Ingredient: Protection Time:
Sawyer Controlled Release (slow release over hours) DEET 20% up to 20 hours
OFF! Deep Woods DEET 25% up to 8 hours
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus up to 6 hours
Cutter Advanced Picaridin 7% up to 4 hours
OFF! Skintastic DEET 2 hours
Bite Blocker for Kids Soybean Oil 1.5 hours
OFF! Skintastic for Kids DEET 1.5 hours
Skin-so-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 23 minutes
Natrapel Citronella 20 minutes
Herbal Armor Citronella, Peppermint Oil, 19 minutes
  Cedar Oil, Lemongrass Oil  
  Geranium Oil  
Green Ban for People Citronella, Peppermint Oil 14 minutes
Buzz Away Citronella Oil 10 minutes
Skin-so-Soft Bug Guard Citronella Oil 10 minutes
Skin-so-Soft Moisturizing Suncare Citronella Oil 3 minutes

Products containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Products containing citronella oil and IR3535 have met applicable standards of the EPA.

For more detailed information on repellents, visit the following websites:

Information for this fact sheet adapted from the Centers for Disease Control.

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.