Western Equine Encephalitis

Western Equine Encephalitis infection is a viral infection of the brain, spinal cord or the meningeal lining caused by a member of the alpha virus called Western Equine Encephalitis Virus. Its presentation can range from no symptoms, to mild headache to severe cases involving confusion, seizures, coma and death.

Where does it occur?

It occurs west of the Mississippi river in the United States, in western Canada, parts of Europe, Scandinavia and New Zealand.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low for travelers.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

One generally develops symptoms 1-2 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most individuals infected by the virus have no symptoms. Mild cases have symptoms of fever, headache, body aches, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can progress to severe headache, confusion, disorientation, seizures, coma and paralysis.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Antibody tests against the virus can be performed on blood or spinal fluid. Rarely, the virus can be cultured from blood or spinal fluid.

Is there any treatment?

There is no specific treatment, measures are entirely supportive including fluids, rest and pain medications.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid insect bites by following insect safety measures.

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